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USAF Officer Missing In Kyrgyzstan

A U.S. military spokeswoman said Thursday that nothing has been ruled out in the disappearance of an American servicewoman who vanished two days ago, even though the local police chief said she was not kidnapped.

Investigators continued their search for Air Force Maj. Jill Metzger, 33, who disappeared Tuesday after being separated from a group of servicemen while visiting a department store in Bishkek.

"I rule out the theory that the U.S. citizen may have been kidnapped," Interior Minister Murat Sutalinov told reporters. He said that police had received no demand for ransom.

However, Capt. Anna Carpenter, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan where Metzger is stationed, said "nothing has been ruled out."

Interior Ministry spokesman Nurdin Jangarayev told The Associated Press that Metzger and another U.S. servicewoman were recorded on a security camera on Tuesday afternoon as they entered the TsUM department store in central Bishkek. She separated from her companion three minutes later, he said.

In the next three hours, two calls were placed to her cell phone but neither was answered; records show that the phone was in the area of Bishkek's bus station when one call was placed, but was in another neighborhood for a later call, Jangarayev said.

"This is worrying because it could mean that her phone was in someone else's hands or that she was unconscious and could not reply," he said. The ministry, which oversees the police, is also trying to establish the holder of a phone she called about 45 minutes before she was last seen, he said.

Police Chief Moldomusa Kongantiyev said Wednesday that Metzger had been expected to return to the United States by the weekend.

A statement from base officials said a group of 22 U.S. military investigators and logistics officers along with Kyrgyz police are involved in the search for Metzger, who was stationed at an air base near Bishkek with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing.

She was dressed in civilian clothes at the time of the disappearance, according to base officials.

Carpenter said that "there has been a lot of progress" in the investigation, but could not discuss details.

The Pentagon on Thursday formally declared Metzger missing, a status officially known as "duty status whereabouts unknown," and disclosed that her normal duty station is Moody Air Force Base, Ga., as a member of the 347th Mission Support Squadron. It said she was on temporary duty in Kyrgyzstan but offered no other details.

Metzger's father, John, said in a telephone interview from his home in Henderson, N.C., that the family was waiting and praying.

"We've got a prayer chain all the way across the nation, and it's our hope that God will return her safely," he said.

In 2003, Jill Metzger was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany when she won the women's division of the U.S. Air Force Marathon, The Henderson Daily Dispatch reported at the time. She was a member of the Air Force-Europe team.

Metzger had run in every Air Force marathon since its inception seven years earlier, the newspaper said, and had run marathons in Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Base officials announced new travel restrictions Thursday, barring all off-duty personnel from leaving the base until Metzger is found.

The U.S. military has maintained an air base at Kyrgyzstan's main civilian Manas Airport since 2001, backing operations in nearby Afghanistan.

By Leila Saralayeva

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