Intensive Search Continues for Kidnapped Soldier
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2006 An intensive search continues for Spc. Kousay Altaie, a 41-year-old U.S. Army Reserve soldier kidnapped Oct. 23 outside Baghdad’s International Zone, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq told reporters during a Baghdad briefing today.
Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell confirmed Altaie’s identity for the first time today and said credible intelligence indicates who might be holding him. “At this time, we believe the ones who kidnapped (the soldier) still have him,” Caldwell told reporters. “And we are vigorously pursuing every lead.”
Caldwell described the massive search under way and vowed that no stone will be left unturned until the missing soldier and his abductors are found. “Iraqi security forces and coalition forces are working around the clock to return him to safety and return him to his family and also to catch the perpetrators of this crime,” he said.
More than 2,000 coalition forces, including elements of five Multinational Division Baghdad brigade combat teams, and more than 1,000 Iraqi security forces are directly involved in the search, which Caldwell said is focusing east of the Tigris River between Sadr City and the Karada peninsula.
These forces are using “all available means,” including unmanned aerial vehicles and other aviation assets, and have conducted 37 missions so far to find Altaie, he said. These missions are based on more than 240 tips that have poured in to authorities since the soldier’s abduction, he said.
Caldwell praised the Iraqi government’s role, saying it is “actively supporting this effort and doing everything it can, too, at its level.”
So far, one coalition soldier and two Iraqi security force members have been killed in the search, and eight U.S. troops have been wounded, he said.
Caldwell offered a warning to the soldier’s abductors: “Make no mistake. We will never stop looking for our servicemembers,” he said. “An intensive effort will continue as we pursue finding our missing soldier.”
Altaie is an Iraqi-American who moved to the United States as a teenager and joined the Army Reserve in December 2004. He was mobilized in August 2005 and deployed to Iraq three months later, Caldwell said. He was last seen inside Baghdad’s International Zone at about 2:30 p.m. Oct. 23, the general said. Sometime after that, he left the heavily fortified zone to visit family members, including his Iraqi wife, whom he married in February 2005, Caldwell said.
While Altaie was at a relative’s home, three cars pulled up to the residence, and the hostage takers handcuffed the soldier and forced him into one of the vehicles, Caldwell said. A relative who claimed to be at the home when the incident occurred reported receiving a call from one of the kidnappers using the cell phone Altaie had with him when he was taken, Caldwell said.