Soldier's Body ID'd, But Search Continues

This photo made available by his family at a news conference in Torrance, Calif, Tuesday May 15, 2007 shows Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., one of seven soldiers ambushed in Iraq.
AP Photo/Daily Breeze
Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops fanned out across the fields of southern Iraq in scorching temperatures Thursday as the military said it remained determined to find two missing U.S. soldiers after the body of a third was pulled from a river.

Also Thursday, a car bomb targeting a funeral procession in the turbulent city of Fallujah killed at least 26 people, police and medical officials said.

The military confirmed Thursday that the body found a day earlier in the Euphrates River south of Baghdad was that of Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., who had been missing since militants ambushed his unit nearly two weeks ago.

A commanding officer identified the remains recovered from the river, but DNA tests were still pending, military officials told Anzack's family.

"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, vanished along with the two other soldiers after their combat team was ambushed May 12 about 20 miles outside Baghdad. Five others, including an Iraqi, were killed in the ambush, subsequently claimed by al Qaeda.

"We can confirm that we have recovered the remains of Pfc. Anzack," Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, a military spokeswoman, said Thursday.

The attack triggered a massive search operation in the area south of Baghdad known as the triangle of death for the insurgent activity there.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman reports the confirmation hits hard for U.S. soldiers conducting the search, and all the others in Iraq, who had held out hope that the search would somehow have a happy ending.

Their focusing now, Strassman says, not on grief, but on the fact that there are two more soldiers still out there, unaccounted for.

Thursday, they proceeded with their mission, despite Anzack's death. One unit searched chicken coops and trudged through mud, canals and tall reeds in the brutal heat.

"The search continues," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman.

Members of Anzack's platoon choked back tears at news of his death and said they would not stop looking for the other two missing soldiers.

"We can't leave them behind. I just hope that they have enough faith to keep them going. What they're going through right now, I can't imagine," said Pfc. Sammy Rhodes, 25, of Albuquerque, N.M.

Spc. Daniel Seitz, 22, from Pensacola, Fla., said he was trying to stay strong and push ahead with the search.

"It just angers me that it's just another friend I've got to lose and deal with, because I've already lost 13 friends since I've been here and I don't know if I can take any more of this," he said.

Conflicting reports have emerged about the Iraqis possibly finding the body of more than one U.S. soldier Wednesday, reports Strassman. U.S. Military sources have insisted they received only one body — Anzack's, and no others.

Aberle denied the reports that a second body had been found and was being examined to determine if it was that of another of the missing soldiers. "The reports of a second set of remains being found is a false report," she said.

The U.S. military also announced Thursday that two U.S. soldiers were killed the day before while conducting combat operations in Iraq's volatile Anbar Province. Those deaths, along with the deaths of nine other troopers announced Wednesday, brought the American death toll for the month to at least 82. Last month, 104 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq.

In other developments:

  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday he expects the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq to accelerate their bombings and other attacks this summer before Gen. David Petraeus reports to Washington on whether he thinks the new U.S. strategy for securing Baghdad is working.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies warned senior members of the Bush administration in early 2003 that invading Iraq could create instability that would give Iran and al Qaeda new opportunities to expand their influence, according to an upcoming Senate report (read more).
  • Democratic presidential contenders on Capitol Hill will cast critical votes on the Iraq war this week, when lawmakers decide on a $120 billion bill to keep military operations afloat through September. The House planned to vote Thursday with the Senate to follow suit by week's end.
  • On the outskirts of Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a minibus near the Shiite-dominated district of al-Hussainya, killing 11 passengers, police said. The attackers then planted a bomb on the bus, which blew up when police arrived, injuring four of them, police said.
  • In Sulaiman Bek, 75 miles south of the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb an Iraqi police convoy killed six police officers Thursday morning, Iraqi police said.
  • Nationwide, at least 104 people were killed in sectarian violence or found dead Wednesday, including 32 who died in suicide bombings.
  • Insurgents in Baghdad attacked a convoy of U.S. diplomats and their military escort with small arms fire on Wednesday morning, the U.S. military said in a statement. Apache helicopters rushed to the scene and fired at several of the armed attackers, the military said. U.S. troops then arrived to secure the area and allow the convoy to leave, the military said.