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Initials of Missing Pilot Found in Iraqi Prison

Initials of Missing Pilot Found in Iraqi Prison

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- American investigators in Iraq have found what may be a clue to the only American missing from the first Gulf War: the initials of Navy pilot Michael Scott Speicher, etched into a prison wall in Baghdad.

It is unknown who scrawled the letters "MSS" into a cell wall in the Hakmiyah prison, said U.S. officials, or whether the letters had anything to do with the missing pilot.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an informant had also reported that an American pilot was held at that prison in the mid-1990s.

A joint team of officials from the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency is in Iraq, searching for clues to Speicher's fate.

An attorney for the Speicher family called the news "heartening" and said the family remains hopeful. "There's a lot of information indicating that Scott is alive and in captivity," Cindy Laquidara told MSNBC in a telephone interview.

Lt. Cmdr. Speicher, an F/A-18 Hornet pilot from Jacksonville, Fla., and three other pilots flew off the USS Saratoga for a bombing run over Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, the first night of the war. During the mission, another Hornet pilot saw a flash and lost sight of Speicher.

The next morning, the Defense Department announced that Speicher's plane had been downed by an Iraqi missile. Several months later the Pentagon classified the pilot as killed in action, but changed that last year to "missing in action, captured."

Intelligence reports from several sources led to the change, officials said.

Iraq officials have said Speicher was killed in the crash.

Speicher's flight suit was found at the crash site and there have been persistent intelligence reports about a U.S. pilot held in Baghdad.

Only one U.S. service member remains listed as missing from the second Iraq war -- Army Sgt. Edward J. Anguiano, 24, of Brownsville, Texas, who disappeared after his convoy was ambushed March 23.

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

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