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U.S. POWs Found Alive

U.S. POWs Found Alive

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(AP) Seven U.S. POWs in Iraq were found alive Sunday, though two had gunshot wounds, American officials said. They were recovered by part of a Marine task force that later entered Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, signaling the imminent fall of the last major bastion of his loyalists.

U.S. POWs Found Alive

Gen. Tommy Franks, who announced the recovery of the missing soldiers, also disclosed that U.S. forces have samples of Saddam's DNA, for potential use in the effort to determine if he is alive or dead.

The seven freed Americans were taken by helicopter to this base near Kut and flown to a military airport south of Kuwait City. They "are in good shape," although two have gunshot wounds, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.

U.S. POWs Found Alive

All seven were released from a hospital in Kuwait after an assessment, an Army nurse said. All were still to be interviewed about their ordeal by military authorities.

Two of the POWs -- Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr. of Lithia Springs, Ga., and Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, 30, of Orlando, Fla. -- were shot down in their Apache helicopter south of Baghdad on March 23.

U.S. POWs Found Alive

The five others were part of the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company whose convoy was ambushed outside the southern city of Nasiriyah, also on March 23. They are Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 30, Fort Bliss, Texas; Sgt. James Riley, 31, Pennsauken, N.J.; Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23, Alamogordo, N.M.; Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, Park City, Kan.; and Spc. Edgar Hernandez, 21, Mission, Texas.

An Iraqi tipped off the Marines closing in on Tikrit that they would shortly "come in contact with a number of Americans," Franks told Fox News. "I believe our guys picked them up on the road."

U.S. POWs Found Alive

The soldiers were taken to an airfield in ambulances and all ran or walked to a C-130 transport plane that took them to the hospital in Kuwait.

Franks said some units of the Marine task force had entered Tikrit after a swift advance from Baghdad.

"I wouldn't say it's over," Franks said in an interview with CNN. "But I will say we have American forces in Tikrit right now."

Franks did not say how far the Marines had gotten into Tikrit.

Rumsfeld also said Sunday "there's no question" that some senior Iraqi leaders have fled to Syria. A half brother of Saddam Hussein, Watban Ibrahim Hassan, was captured in northern Iraq apparently trying to reach Syria, a U.S. official said in Washington.

He was apprehended near the northern city of Mosul in recent days, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Watban was the five of spades in the most-wanted list, in the form of a deck of cards, issued by the U.S. military.

Regarding Saddam's DNA, Franks said it could be used to match any DNA samples found at sites of coalition missiles strikes on regime supporters.

"The appropriate people with the appropriate forensics are doing checks you would find appropriate in each of the places where we think we may have killed regime leadership," Franks said.

He acknowledged they might not get a positive match, particularly if remains might have been removed. "But what you should know, we have the forensics capability to chase these things down, and we'll chase them down, every one of them all the way," he told CNN.

Franks declined to declare victory, saying that until all the objectives of the campaign had been reached, including finding weapons of mass destruction, he wouldn't call the war over. He said coalition forces were looking at 2,000-3,000 suspected weapons of mass destruction sites, and said he expected to be in Baghdad within the week to visit troops.

Prior to the Marines' arrival in Tikrit, live footage aired by CNN showed no signs of active Iraqi defenses and suggested that intensive U.S. airstrikes had taken a heavy toll on the city's military forces.

However, CNN vehicles came under small-arms fire as they tried to enter the city center. A CNN security guard returned fire at least twice, and the news crew quickly drove away.

Two members of the CNN party were lightly injured, according to Eli Flournoy, CNN's senior international assignment editor. He said an Iraqi Kurd serving as a security guard was grazed by a bullet, and a CNN producer was hit by shattered glass.

Though Tikrit has been depicted as a possible locale for a last stand by Saddam's loyalists, U.S. officials in the past few days had been playing down the prospect of a major battle there because of desertions and damage from the sustained airstrikes.

With combat in most of Iraq over or winding down, the U.S. military was shifting its focus to stabilizing the country.

As part of that effort, a team of 32 U.S. Army engineers flew into Baghdad on Sunday help restore electricity. Another project is to establish joint patrols by U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police, aimed at curbing the rampant looting that has wracked Baghdad, Mosul and other cities.

In Baghdad, the looting spread Sunday to a vast stretch of army barracks and warehouses on the western outskirts. Looters using trucks and horse-drawn carts stole toilets, bathtubs, sinks and construction materials from one of the largest warehouses. Nearer the city center, an institute of military studies was looted and gutted by fire.

Other parts of Baghdad began to return to normalcy. U.S. Army troops guarded banks and hospitals, shops began to open, and hundreds of cars loaded with personal belonging entered from the west, a sign that people who fled the fighting were coming home.

Some buses were running. Other buses -- double-decker ones -- have been commandeered by looters to ferry their plunder back home.

Marines were fanning through neighborhoods of northeast Baghdad, finding large caches of weapons and ammunition in schools, in parked trucks, even in open fields where children play.

"Get this stuff out," said resident Achmad Idan, 41. "These people can't live here." He was standing next to a blue truck in which anti-tank rounds were discovered.

In one upscale neighborhood, Marines and special forces found two short-range Frog-7 missiles -- each capable of carrying 25 gallons of chemical agents. One, on its mobile transporter/launcher, was found in nursery among potted plants and palm trees; the second was found 500 yards away in a trailer in front of a University of Baghdad administrative building.

In Mosul, the biggest city in the north, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was shot and wounded Sunday while on a patrol aimed at improving security.

Maj. Fred Dummar said the soldier was in a Land Rover, driving past a waving crowd, when a bullet smashed through the rear window and struck his leg. The wound was not believed to be life-threatening, but it was expected the soldier would be evacuated to Germany for further treatment.

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

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