Transcript of General Caldwell's statement today regarding events and efforts to find missing soldiers
I'm here to let you know about the massive efforts currently underway to locate our three missing American soldiers. Here's what happened on Saturday, May 12th west of Mahmudiyah in Iraq. The coalition force unit was positioned west of Mahmudiyah to interdict terrorists engaged in placing roadside bombs. Elements of that unit heard an explosion at 4:44 a.m.
They attempted to contact all of their observation posts. One position, occupied by seven American soldiers and an Iraqi Army soldier in two Humvees did not respond. They requested unmanned aerial vehicle support to assess the situation on the ground. At 4:59, a U.A.V. observed two burning vehicles in that area. Coalition forces immediately directed two units to move to the scene. En route, the first responding unit discovered two roadside bombs. The second responding unit discovered an additional roadside bomb. By 5:40 a.m. both units were at the scene, began securing the area, and initiated a search for the soldiers who failed to respond.
By 8:04 the responding units were able to finally confirm the deaths of five soldiers. Four of the deceased were located in their Humvees. The fifth was found a short distance from the unit's original location. Saturday evening we confirmed that two of the bodies found in the Humvees were American soldiers.
Currently we know that four of our soldiers were killed in action, along with an Iraqi Army soldier serving with the unit. We have completed positive identification on three of our American soldiers. We're working hard and making every effort to identify the fourth American so we can properly notify the families as to the status of their loved ones.
We still have three missing American soldiers. Their duty status is classified as whereabouts unknown. At this time we believe they were abducted by terrorists belonging to al-Qaeda or an affiliated group. This assessment was based on highly credible intelligence information.
The details I can share right now are limited for two important reasons. First, the operations to locate our soldiers are ongoing, and we would not want to do anything that would jeopardize these efforts. And the second is we are still providing the families of our soldiers with all of the information we can.
Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of those killed and missing soldiers. But these families must know that we are using every asset and resource available to the United States and our Iraqi allies in these efforts. We are doing everything we can to locate our soldiers. We did nothing but come here to serve our country and to help the Iraqi people.
We are receiving cooperation from the Iraqi people in these efforts. Tips are coming in, and they are leading to operations against targets of interest. Thousands of our soldiers and our Iraqi counterparts are focused on this mission. They are supplemented by national and theater assets, by manned and unmanned aerial platforms, by intelligence elements from interrogators to collectors to dog teams, each providing a unique capability to support this effort.
I cannot promise you that these efforts will produce the results we all are praying for. But what I can promise you, the American people, and particularly the families of these missing men, is that we are doing everything we can to find these brave and courageous soldiers.
Everyone who wears this uniform in combat understands and lives by the soldier's creed. And one of its key tenets is, "I will never leave a fallen comrade." We live by that creed.
Transcript by Spread the Word: Iraq-Nam
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