- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military carried out house-to-house searches in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood for an Army translator missing after reportedly being kidnapped but said yesterday that they had found no sign of him.

The military said the U.S. soldier, who was not identified by name, was last seen Monday in the heavily guarded Green Zone in central Baghdad, after which he was thought to have left to visit relatives elsewhere in the capital.

U.S. and Iraqi forces threw a security cordon around the central Karradah district Monday night, and Iraqis seeking to pass through the downtown area yesterday were turned away at roadblocks. Army Kiowa OH-58 reconnaissance helicopters circled the area in pairs.

American troops patrolling Karradah showed pictures of the missing man to residents as they checked houses and buildings across the area, which lies in a bend in the Tigris River.

The military said the soldier was a linguist with the provincial reconstruction team in Baghdad. American troops who raided Baghdad’s Al-Furat TV on Monday said they were looking for an abducted American officer of Iraqi descent who had gone to see relatives in Karradah.

“We will leverage all available coalition resources to find this soldier,” Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones, and we are working for his safe return.”

The soldier was reportedly at a relative’s house when he was grabbed by masked men who handcuffed him and forced him into a vehicle. One of the men then called a relative with the soldier’s cell phone, the military said. It did not say whether a ransom demand was made.

The last time U.S. soldiers were reported missing in Iraq was in June, when two Americans were captured in an attack on their checkpoint south of Baghdad. The soldiers were later found dead, their bodies brutalized, the military said. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility.

Few American troops have been abducted in Iraq, largely because of strict military procedures for those on patrol or at checkpoints.

The U.S. military has rules for troops operating outside their bases that are designed to ensure they are under supervision and also to protect them. Troops leaving base are supposed to be accompanied by a noncommissioned officer and travel in at least two vehicles.

October marked the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq this year. Yesterday, the military announced the deaths of four more U.S. troops, raising the month’s toll to 91. October is on course to surpass the October 2005 death toll of 96. Before that, the deadliest months were January 2005 at 107, November 2004 at 137 and April 2004 at 135. At least 2,801 members of the U.S. military have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

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