BAGHDAD – Al-Qaida-linked insurgents claimed in a video that surfaced Monday to have killed three U.S. soldiers who went missing after an assault on their patrol early last month, but they offered no proof.
The U.S. military recovered the body of one of the soldiers May 23, but the other two remain missing.
The nearly 11-minute clip, a copy of which was provided to the Los Angeles Times by the Washington-based SITE Institute, includes a close-up of two military identification cards said to belong to the still-missing soldiers. But it does not show the pair.
“We are further analyzing the video; however, it doesn’t appear to contain any definitive evidence indicating the status of our missing soldiers,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said in a statement.
“We continue to search and hope that our two missing soldiers will be found alive and in good health.”
The soldiers have been the subject of a massive search since the May 12 ambush south of Baghdad.
Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter died in the initial assault. The body of Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif., was pulled from the Euphrates River less than two weeks later.
Still listed as missing are Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich.
The video obtained by SITE, which monitors militant Web sites, was produced by the publishing unit of the Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq militants who profess loyalty to Osama bin Laden.
It includes footage purporting to show masked gunmen discussing the May attack using a plan tacked to a tree and shaky nighttime images of clashes said to have been filmed during the ambush. It was impossible to verify the claims.
An unidentified voice on the tape states that the soldiers were captured alive.
The voice accuses the U.S. military of ignoring instructions on an earlier Internet posting not to search for the missing men.
“The U.S. Army sent 4,000 troops to search for the three prisoners. … They believed in their technologies and abilities,” the off-camera speaker says. “And as usual these searches were accompanied by random arrests and the humiliation of Muslim women and elderly men. They did not even leave the mosque guards alone.
“The Islamic state of Iraq decided to put an end to this issue,” the voice continues. “They were living prisoners, and now they are dead bodies.”
The final scenes show the identification cards and other personal effects said to have been seized during the ambush, including a pistol, credit cards, $50 bills and Iraqi currency.