U.S. Confirms GIs Seized In Sneak Attack

Iraqi soldiers guard central Karbala, Iraq, Monday Jan. 22, 2007, after gunmen stormed provincial headquarters in Karbala. Contrary to public statements by the U.S. military, four U.S. soldiers did not die repelling a sneak attack at the governor's office in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last week. New information shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away. AP

The U.S. command on Friday confirmed that four American soldiers were abducted during a sophisticated sneak attack last week in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. It said three were shot to death and a fourth was fatally wounded with a gunshot to the head when they were found in a neighboring province.

Two of the four soldiers were handcuffed together and dead from gunshot wounds. A third was on the ground nearby, also killed by a gunshot. The fourth soldier died on the way to the hospital, the military said in a statement issued late Friday, several hours after The Associated Press reported details of the raid.

On Jan. 20, the day of the highly sophisticated raid on a security meeting Karbala, the military said five soldiers were killed repelling the attack.

Within hours of an AP report that four of the five dead soldiers had been abducted and found dead or dying about 25 miles to the east, the military issued a long account of what took place.

It said, "Two soldiers were found handcuffed together in the back of one of the SUVs. Both had suffered gunshot wounds and were dead. A third soldier was found shot and dead on the ground. Nearby, the fourth soldier was still alive, despite a gunshot wound to the head."

The mortally wounded soldier was rushed to the hospital by Iraqi police but died on the way, the military said.

The military also said Iraqi police had found "five SUVs, U.S. Army-type combat uniforms, boots, radios and a non-U.S. made rifle" near the town of Al-Mahwil, in neighboring Babil province.

The police found the bodies, the gear and the abandoned SUVs after chasing the convoy of attackers and their American captives when police became suspicious after the vehicles did not stop at a roadblock.

"The precision of the attack, the equipment used and the possible use of explosives to destroy the military vehicles in the compound suggests that the attack was well rehearsed prior to execution," said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, spokesman for Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

"The attackers went straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility, bypassing the Iraqi police in the compound," said Bleichwehl. "We are looking at all the evidence to determine who or what was responsible for the breakdown in security at the compound and the perpetration of the assault."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was pressed about the new details of the Karbala attack earlier on Friday, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports, but said he didn't know any specifics.

"I've just been made aware of the discrepancy in the account, and I've asked for the specifics about it," Gates said.
  • Joel Roberts

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