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Rumsfeld: American Soldiers are Missing in Iraq

Rumsfeld: American Soldiers are Missing in Iraq

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some American soldiers are missing in the fighting in Iraq and possibly being held as prisoners, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said he thought fewer than 10 soldiers were missing in southern Iraq and that military officials were trying to account for them. "Beyond that, we don't know," Gen. Richard Myers said on "Fox News Sunday."

The Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera aired footage from Iraqi television of interviews with what the station identified as captured American prisoners, and also showed bodies in uniform in an Iraqi morgue that it said were Americans.

A senior defense official said Pentagon officials did not know precisely how many Americans had been captured. The official declined to identify the unit involved so as not to cause panic among soldiers' families.

Some Iraqi soldiers acted like they were going to surrender, only to fire on U.S. forces once they approached, the official said. "They paid dearly for it," the official said.

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Rumsfeld said that if those are indeed coalition soldiers being shown on the Al-Jazeera TV footage, "those pictures are a violation of the Geneva Conventions."

On the tape, one prisoner said he was from Kansas and another said he was from Texas. Asked why he was fighting Iraqis, the soldier who said he was from Kansas replied: "They don't bother me; I don't bother them."

Rumsfeld noted that under the conventions governing prisoners of war, "It's illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners."

"There are, we believe, there are some American soldiers missing." He said there also could be captured journalists.

Asked whether there were Americans being held prisoner in Iraq, Myers said: "We're still trying to track that one down. ... We're going to have to do some more investigation to determine whether that's true or not."

A Patriot missile battery shot down a British Royal Air Force fighter aircraft near the Iraqi border with Kuwait, British officials said. There was no word on the fate of the British crew and no information on their numbers.

President Bush, spending the weekend at Camp David, attended church and went for a walk Sunday.

Rumsfeld characterized the progress of the five-day-old war as excellent, noting that "there are periodic instances when the resistance is quite stiff. ... The fact that there is a firefight, someone ought not to be surprised."

He said the fate of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein remained uncertain. The United States launched air strikes against Baghdad earlier than planned based on intelligence reports that gave U.S. planners hope that they could kill Saddam with an unexpected strike.

"There are reports in Baghdad and in Iraq that he may be dead or that he may be injured," Rumsfeld said. "We'll just have to assume that he is alive and well."

Rumsfeld said if it turns out that Saddam is dead, the United States would not conceal the fact. "My personal view, I would say that the truth is the truth. If he's dead, he's dead."

While coalition forces have moved steadily toward Baghdad, the capital, Myers made clear that troops faced risks ahead.

"This is going to get a lot harder. Anybody that thinks this is going to be quick and easy is wrong. I don't think it's been quick and easy to date," he said.

A senior defense official said coalition forces have yet to come across the six main Republican Guard units, five of which are arrayed around Baghdad and one in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

The Pentagon said U.S. troops hunting for banned chemical and biological weapons and Scud missiles have so far come up empty. Rumsfeld said allied forces so far are "not in that business" of searching for weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq because they have been "on the ground 72 hours fighting a war."

The CIA has gathered "massive amounts of information" on weapons of mass destruction and Iraq, Rumsfeld said.

Iraq denies U.S. assertions it has any chemical or biological weapons.

Myers said war planners "have to be prepared for the worst case" -- that Iraqi troops will use such weapons.

"The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is focused looking for those delivery means, the best we can," Myer said.

"It's very hard to see where some of these things are stored, but the delivery means a little more obvious. And so we're going after those delivery means."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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