The body of a U.S. soldier found in the Euphrates River in Iraq was identified as a California man who was abducted with two comrades a week and a half ago, a relative said Tuesday.
Early Wednesday, U.S. military officials confirmed that the body found is that of Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., and denied reports that a second set of remains has been found..
"They told us, 'We're sorry to inform you the body we found has been identified as Joe,'" the soldier's aunt, Debbie Anzack, said Wednesday. "I'm in disbelief."
Anzack, 20, was one of three soldiers who vanished after their combat team was ambushed May 12 about 20 miles outside of Baghdad. Five others, including an Iraqi, were killed in the ambush, subsequently claimed by al Qaeda.
Earlier, Iraqi police had dragged a body from the Euphrates River on and said it was one of three American soldiers abducted in an ambush claimed by al Qaeda.
American forces also disclosed nine more deaths, raising to 20 the number of U.S. troops killed in four days.
The spike in American deaths and the discovery of the bodies come at a difficult moment for Washington, where the Bush administration and Congress are struggling to agree on funding for the unpopular war. The search for the captured soldiers has also taken thousands of troops out of the pool of forces for the Baghdad security crackdown.
Nationwide at least 104 people were killed in sectarian violence or found dead Wednesday, including 32 who perished in suicide bombings. One bombing took place 60 miles west of the capital, the other in a city to the east near the Iranian border.
In the search for three U.S. soldiers ambushed and captured May 12, thousands of U.S. and Iraqi forces have trudged in temperatures above 110 degrees through desert and lush farmland, sometimes wading in sewage-polluted irrigation ditches. Four other troopers and an Iraqi were killed in the ambush, subsequently claimed by al Qaeda.
Iraqi police using civilian boats searched for other bodies on the river in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, and U.S. troops intensified their presence on a nearby bridge as helicopters flew overhead, witnesses said.
Hassan al-Jibouri, 32, said he saw the body with head wounds and whip marks on its back floating on the river Wednesday morning. He and others then alerted police.
In other recent developments:Seventy percent of foreign insurgents arrested in Iraq come from Gulf countries via Syria, where they're provided with forged passports, an Iraqi intelligence officer alleged in a published report Wednesday. "They, according to their own confessions, gather in mosques in the said (Gulf) states to travel to Syria using their passports, taking with them phone numbers of individuals waiting for them there," Brig. Gen. Rashid Fleih, the assistant undersecretary for intelligence of Iraq's Interior Ministry, told Kuwait's Al-Qabas daily in an interview.A parked car bomb exploded Wednesday in a parking lot south of Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding 15 others, police said. The attack took place in the town of Jbala, about 45 miles south of Baghdad.Gunmen drove into a commercial area in central Baghdad and opened fire on shops, killing four civilians and injuring 14 others, police said. The attack broke out in the Khulani neighborhood near a historic Shiite mosque. A joint patrol of U.S. troops and Iraqi security officers drove off the attackers, police said.A parked car bomb ripped through a packed outdoor market in southwestern Baghdad on Tuesday morning, killing 25 people and injuring 60 others, police said. The deadly blast occurred in the Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Amil, damaging a nearby medical center and other buildings and setting cars on fire, police said.Republicans and Democrats alike are claiming victory as Congress moves this week toward passing a final Iraq spending bill that funds the war and does not order troops home. But as Republicans celebrated, Democrats said the final bill was an example of how far they had been able to push the White House, which initially demanded no restrictions on war funding and opposed the more than $20 billion in domestic and military spending added by the Democrats.
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