- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 23 (UPI) — Iraqi television showed Sunday videotape of a number of U.S. soldiers, including a woman, captured in south central Iraq, as well as the bodies of eight others they claimed were American.

Pentagon officials confirm some U.S. soldiers have been taken prisoner but have not confirmed the numbers or their identities. They were trying to notify the families of those captured or killed.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers said 11 soldiers were unaccounted for.

"I was told early this morning perhaps our troops were captured," U.S. President George Bush said Sunday upon returning from Camp David. "It looks like there may be. I expect those people to be treated humanely."

Filming prisoners of war and disseminating the tape violate the Geneva Convention prohibition of ridicule of detained soldiers. They are supposed to be moved out of harm's way, receive medical treatment, shelter and food.

ABC News reported Sunday the soldiers were part of a maintenance company that took a wrong turn near Nasiriyah and was ambushed. ABC also reported that a major firefight continued around that city. A battalion of some 1,000 Marines was engaged in an intense firefight in Nasiriyah, and helicopters had been called in to evacuate wounded allied soldiers from the battle zone, ABC reported.

A U.S. Joint Staff official said Saturday U.S. forces would try to avoid fighting in cities as to do so raised the possibility of mass casualties, both military and civilian. The plan involves securing cities and making sure Iraqi forces inside them do not pose a risk to U.S. forces after they pass them on the way to Baghdad. It is up to the individual commander to make that determination.

"The commander on the ground weighs whether or not the enemy forces in the city are any kind of threat to his lines of communication," said Joint Staff Vice Director of Operations Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Saturday.

"Lines of communication" is the military term for resupply and transit routes. If the LOC is cut off, the enemy can surround troops.

U.S. Central Command denied Iraqi claims they had shot down a coalition aircraft. Fox News reported Sunday U.S. air defense shot down a British combat aircraft by mistake. The plane did not have a transponder that identified it as a friendly aircraft.

The Iraqi videotape showed bodies of the soldiers, some mutilated and others riddled with bullets on the floor in an undisclosed location. Blood-stained identification papers were being placed on their chests while an Iraqi was covering one of the half-naked bodies with a U.S. uniform.

Another U.S. soldier, killed in action, appeared lying on the ground near a water tank.

The Iraqi videotape, which was first broadcast by al-Jazeera satellite television, also showed five captured soldiers.

One of them, who appeared terrified and identified himself as a private first class from Kansas, said: "I was told to shoot only if I am shot at. They (Iraqis) shot at me first so I shot back. I did not want to kill anybody."

When asked how he sees the Iraqi army, he said: "They don't bother me. I don't bother them" and that he came to Iraq because "I was told to."

Another U.S. soldier, who said he was from Texas, was asked why he went to Iraq and replied: "I follow orders." And when asked how many officers were with him, he said, "I do not know, sir."

He could not answer an Iraqi officer, standing behind the camera, when he was repeatedly asked whether the Iraqi people greeted the U.S. forces with flowers or guns. He simply said, "I don't know."

When asked how did he see the Iraqi people, he replied: "people in their own country."

The Iraqi TV anchor on the tape addressed his viewers by saying that "you are seeing a group of prisoners from the U.S. and British forces trying to invade Iraq and were confronted by our heroic forces in the outskirts of al-Nassiriya."

A third U.S. wounded soldier was lying on a bed and appeared with bandages around his arm while someone was taking his pulse. He identified himself as being from New Jersey and the 507th Company of the U.S. Army. Another wounded U.S. serviceman who said he was from Texas and came from Kuwait into Iraq.

The last U.S. soldier shown by Iraqi TV was a black woman who said she was a member of the 507th Maintenance Company.

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