2 Soldiers, 7 Contractors Missing in Iraq
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 12, 2004 Two American soldiers and seven U.S. contractors are missing following an attack on a convoy in Iraq, the top two U.S. generals in the region said today from Baghdad.
The seven missing civilians work for Kellogg Brown & Root, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, said via a video link with reporters in the Pentagon. KBR is a major American defense contractor in overseas locations.
None of the missing Americans was identified. Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, said the nine individuals are unaccounted for following an attack on a convoy in Abu Ghraib two days ago. The generals declined to give further details.
In other news, Abizaid has requested a small number of additional troops in Iraq. He described what he requested as "two brigades worth of combat power," but refused to give more specific numbers.
"What I've asked for is essentially to have a strong mobile combat-arms capability," he said.
Abizaid said he had made the request through the Joint Staff to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. A senior DoD official said Rumsfeld would make a decision on the request "soon."
Abizaid also discussed the volatile situation in Fallujah. He said reports among Arab media outlets that U.S. military forces are targeting civilians in the region are false.
"We absolutely do not do that, and I think everybody knows that," he said, noting that some regional media outlets have "not been truthful in their reporting."
"It is absolutely clear that American forces are doing their very best to protect civilians and at the same time get at the military targets there," he said.
Sanchez said the tactics being used in Fallujah are "fairly straightforward," and he echoed Abizaid's statements on protecting civilians.
"We are being very deliberate and precise in the application of that combat power to prevent any wounding or injuring of noncombatants in the area," Sanchez said.
In closing, Abizaid commended the men and women of the U.S. armed forces "for incredible sacrifice during a very tough period of fighting" over the past week.
"They have not only brought honor and respect to the armed forces of the United States," he said, "but they have added immeasurably to making Iraq a better place for the future."