Fox News: Intelligence suggests missing soldiers are alive; Update: Some suspects in custody, soldiers' equipment possibly recovered

As reported a little more than an hour ago by Shep Smith. Gateway Pundit has video. I can’t find a word about it on the wires, but says it’s so:


U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets Wednesday in a thinly populated farming area south of Baghdad, offering a $200,000 reward for any information on three missing American soldiers believed captured by Al Qaeda terrorists.

The new search tactic came as a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad told FOX News there was reason to believe the missing GIs were still alive. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would only say the assessment was based on intelligence.

Either the source is very senior or else the intel broke late because Brig. Gen. Perry Wiggins didn’t say a word about it at the press briefing today. He did, however, say they have credible intel that the soldiers were abducted by AQ or an “affiliated group.” If he’s telling the truth, that probably means the new intel is a ransom demand (likely in the form of a prisoner exchange). But since when does AQ do that sort of thing? Maybe it’s a different Sunni insurgent group. In which case, they must be demanding some awfully important prisoners to give up their chance for the jihadist glory that would come with executing a U.S. soldier.

But what if Wiggins was lying? I saw this report on Iraqslogger a few days ago and didn’t think much of it, but now I wonder.

“A high level source” in Iraqi security gave al-Hayat a different version of the attack in Mahmudiya that resulted in the death of 4 American soldiers and an Iraqi translator, and the presumed capture of three US infantrymen by an al-Qa’ida-affiliated group.

The “source” told the newspaper that the attack took place in Shwaisha, 30 kilometers west of Mahmudiya. The US troops were riding two Humvee vehicles, stationed on a bridge over the Euphrates River, the source – who spoke under the condition of anonymity – said.

The attack occurred while the US patrol was “exchanging its position with a replacement patrol,” the source claimed. An armed group, which al-Hayat did not identify, attacked the US troops with mortar shells, causing the death of 5 soldiers, while the remaining three “fled to an unknown location.” The source added that it is still unknown whether the missing soldiers were captured by the same group that attacked their patrol…

What is notable in the al-Hayat report is that the security source affirmed that the three soldiers were “missing and not captured;” adding that “al-Qa’ida is “claiming a victory for itself that it did not achieve.”


If they’re on the loose in the Sunni triangle, the military has every incentive not to let the local headchoppers know that. Hence the ruse about them having already been captured.

We’ll see how it shakes out. They’ve been missing for four days, despite a huge U.S. military presence in the area. If they are at large, it seems strange that we haven’t found them yet.

Update: Gen. Petraeus says he “assumes” the soldiers are still alive, although that sounds more like think-happy-thoughts optimism than a judgment of the facts.

Update: They’ve rolled up almost a dozen suspected jihadis the past few days while searching for the missing troops so another possibility is that they stumbled upon a member of the cell that’s holding them and he claims to have seen them recently while they were still alive. In that case, expect some resolution to come soon; he must have an idea about where they’re being held, in which case a raid will certainly be in the offing.

Update: WaPo has no information about the soldiers possibly being alive but it does have details about Sunday’s ambush.

Previous reports suggested the soldiers were attacked first by a roadside bomb or a rocket-propelled grenade. But Lynch described a large-scale assault by well-armed gunmen.

“It was a complex attack on that position, where a dismounted enemy assaulted the position from multiple directions and attacked the individuals inside the Humvees,” Lynch said.

The attackers managed to breach the concertina wire with wire cutters or some other means. They also carried hand grenades and other explosives, which may have been used in setting fire to the Humvees, Lynch said.

The attackers had vehicles nearby, he added, because there were signs on the ground that “bodies were moved or dragged and placed in vehicles. The drag marks stopped at the tire tracks of vehicles.”

Lynch said that there were also indications that the U.S. soldiers fought back.


I speculated on Monday that the entire squad might have been killed during the firefight, with some of the bodies taken away by AQ to be mutilated for propaganda. That’s the leading theory on what happened to Tucker and Menchaca last year. The indications of dragging here could corroborate that theory — or, horribly, it could mean they were alive but badly wounded. I’m not sure which fate is better given the circumstances.

Update: Earlier suspicions confirmed — the Times reports that some of the jihadis involved in the abduction have been detained and some of what may be the missing troops’ equipment has been recovered. This must be the source of the intel on which Fox News’s tip is based.

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John Sexton 8:40 PM on September 21, 2023