Gen. Believes 2 Of Missing GIs Still Alive

Pfc. Michael Pope, 20, from Kansas City, Mo., right, of Delta Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division walks through tall grass while his platoon searches for three of his comrades still missing after a May 12 attack that left four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi soldier dead in Quarghuli village, near Youssifiyah, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq Friday, May 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
The top U.S. commander in Iraq thinks he knows who kidnapped three U.S. soldiers last weekend and believes that at least two of them are alive, the Army Times newspaper reported.

"We know who that guy is," Gen. David Petraeus said in an interview posted Saturday on the Army Times Web site.

Petraeus did not give the man's name but described him as "sort of an affiliate of al Qaeda. He's the big player down in that area. We've tangled with him before."

According to the newspaper, Petraeus said he did not know for certain whether the three 10th Mountain Division soldiers were alive.

"As of this morning, we thought there were at least two that were probably still alive," he said. "At one point in time there was a sense that one of them might have died, but again we just don't know."

Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for Petraeus, told CBS Radio News on Saturday that one of the missing soldiers may have died after being captured.

"We are getting indications that there is a possibility that one of the soldiers may have died after capture, at some point, but it is not definitive yet," Boylan said. "We do believe, based on various sources, that at least two of the soldiers are alive. But we are going with the assumption, and will continue to go with the assumption until proven otherwise, that all three are still alive."

An Iraqi army intelligence officer said two men have confessed to taking part in last weekend's attack.

The Iraqi official says the two captives say 13 men took part in the assault. He says they split into two groups afterward, with the ringleader taking the kidnapped soldiers with his band of men. The two say they don't know where the soldiers were taken.

U.S. soldiers widened the search for three missing American soldiers, detaining nine people in a raid Saturday about 25 miles from where the service members were taken captive, the U.S. military said.

The raid occurred in Amiriyah, a longtime Sunni insurgent area along the Euphrates River west of Baghdad, the U.S. said in a statement. The soldiers are from he 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in northern New York.

The statement said the Amiriyah raid was part of a move to "follow tips and information leads in the disappearance of three U.S. soldiers."

Tribes in the Amiriyah area are related to those who live close to where the soldiers were seized May 12.

In addition, U.S. troops arrested two people in Baqouba "associated" with the al Qaeda command network, the U.S. said. Baqouba is 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, and it was unclear whether their arrests were directly related to the search for the missing soldiers.

The focus of the search is around the village of Quarghuli, 12 miles south of Baghdad, where the soldiers were captured following an attack on their observation post.

Four American soldiers and one Iraqi were killed in the attack.

An al Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the kidnappings.

According to the Army Times, Petraeus said an informant passed the information on who probably led the attack.

"Somebody's given us the names of all the guys that participated in it and told us how they did it, and all the rest of that stuff," he said. "Now, we have to verify that at some point in time, but it sounds spot on. We've had all kinds of tips down there. We just tragically haven't found the individuals."

In Other Developments:

  • Five U.S. soldiers were killed in a series of bombings and gunbattles across Iraq, the U.S. military announced Saturday. Two soldiers from the Multinational Division-Baghdad were killed Friday when their patrol in northwestern Baghdad was attacked by a bomb and small arms fire, the military said. Two others were wounded in the attack. A third soldier from MultiNational Force-West was killed Friday in combat operations in Anbar province, the military said. A fourth soldier was killed by small-arms fire while on a foot patrol in Baghdad, the military said.
  • Saturday, a fifth soldier was killed and three others were wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the military said. Two Iraqi soldiers were also wounded. The names of the U.S. soldiers were withheld pending notification of their relatives.
  • A report by the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. has spent more than $300 billion on military operations in Iraq. The Defense Department's reported obligations to date include about $304.6 billion for operations in and around Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and an additional $74.2 billion for operations in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. $28.3 billion was spent for operations in defense of the homeland.
  • The White House and Congress failed to strike a deal Friday after exchanging competing offers on an Iraq war spending bill that Democrats said should set a date for U.S. troops to leave.
  • Outgoing British leader Tony Blair, whose premiership has been dominated by his unpopular decision to join the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, arrived in Iraq on Saturday for his seventh — and final — visit as prime minister.
  • Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms entered a village west of Baghdad early Saturday, rousted families from their homes and opened fire on the men, killing 15 of them, an Iraqi general and a Kurdish political party said. The victims were Kurdish Shiites, according to a statement posted on the Web site of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Sherif said villagers had received no threats before the attack, which he blamed on al Qaeda.