Hunt Intensifies For Missing GIs In Iraq

U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets seeking information about three U.S. soldiers feared captured by al Qaeda as American and Iraqi troops intensified the search Tuesday despite a warning from the terror group that the hunt will endanger the captives' lives.

The U.S. command said the searchers were trying to isolate areas where they suspect the captives may have been taken after the pre-dawn ambush Saturday in which four American troops and an Iraq soldier were killed.

"The captors don't have freedom of movement," said Maj. Kenny Mintz of San Diego, Calif. "If they have the soldiers, they can't move them from where they are. We're doing a deliberate search of the areas."

On Monday, an al Qaeda front group — the Islamic State of Iraq — warned the Americans in a Web statement to call off the hunt "if you want their safety."

The warning could indicate that the presence of about 4,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops in the thinly populated farming area 20 miles south of Baghdad is making it difficult for the captors to move the Americans to a secure location.

In a statement Tuesday, the U.S. command said American soldiers have questioned more than 450 people and detained at least 11 since the search began last weekend.

A later statement said that in addition to the leaflets, trucks with loudspeakers were roaming the area urging people to come forward with any information. No details of the leaflets or their precise message were released.

All seven of the dead and missing soldiers were assigned to Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, which is part of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., reports CBS News correspondent Sharon Alfonsi. The echo of that loss, and so many others, can be felt around Fort Drum. More than 80 soldiers from that base alone have been killed since the start of the war.

"I lost two good friends over there," said Fort Drum soldier David Potter.

In other developments:

  • President Bush has chosen Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Pentagon's director of operations, to oversee the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a "war czar" after a long search for new leadership, administration officials said Tuesday.

  • At least one mortar or rocket slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone on Tuesday, wounding five American Embassy contractors, a spokesman said. U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said the nationalities of the embassy contractors who were wounded have "not yet been confirmed." Fintor said there were no deaths and property damage was minimal. He added that the embassy was "open and functioning normally."

  • Five civilians were killed and 41 wounded when dozens of gunmen attacked a village north of the capital, Iraqi authorities said.

  • Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has proposed sending a Muslim peacekeeping force to Iraq. Musharraf has suggested his own country would send thousands of troops to join the effort, should such a plan come together.

  • A roadside bomb apparently hit a U.S. convoy in the Kamalia area of southeastern Baghdad. Associated Press TV video showed one of the convoy's trucks burning and two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters circling overhead. Later, when the fire went out, Iraq men and young boys were shown on the footage looting what remained of the truck.

  • Unidentified gunmen killed Iraqi army Col. Raed Ahmed Shihab in Baghdad as he drove in the city, police said. He had worked for the Iraqi ministry of defense.

  • The U.S.-led coalition detained 10 suspected insurgents during raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq and another hard-line militant Sunni group, the Ansar al-Sunna Army, in the cities of Mosul, Fallujah and an area near the U.S. Air Force base of Taji, north of the capital, the military said.

  • Japan's lower house of parliament approved a two-year extension of the country's air force transport mission in Iraq Tuesday, overcoming criticism of Tokyo's involvement in the increasingly unpopular war. The measure was easily passed in the chamber, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc holds a majority.

    At the time of the attack, the soldiers were in two vehicles "at a stationary observation post trying to interdict terrorists who place roadside bombs," a U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said.

    "There were other observation posts that were trying to do this in the area. They were not moving in a convoy. The entire unit was out operating in this same area," Garver added.

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