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Search continues for missing Air Force officer

Published September 8, 2006

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - A U.S. military spokeswoman said Thursday that nothing has been ruled out in the disappearance of an American servicewoman who vanished two days ago, even though the local police chief said she was not kidnapped.

Investigators continued their search for Air Force Maj. Jill Metzger, 33, who disappeared Tuesday after being separated from a group of servicemen while visiting a department store in Bishkek.

"I rule out the theory that the U.S. citizen may have been kidnapped," Interior Minister Murat Sutalinov told reporters. He said that police had received no demand for ransom.

However, Capt. Anna Carpenter, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan where Metzger is stationed, said "nothing has been ruled out."

Interior Ministry spokesman Nurdin Jangarayev told the Associated Press that Metzger and another U.S. servicewoman were recorded on a security camera on Tuesday afternoon as they entered the TsUM department store in central Bishkek. She separated from her companion three minutes later, he said.

In the next three hours, two calls were placed to her cell phone but neither was answered, Jangarayev said.

"This is worrying because it could mean that her phone was in someone else's hands or that she was unconscious and could not reply," he said. The ministry, which oversees the police, is also trying to establish the holder of a phone she called about 45 minutes before she was last seen, he said.

Police Chief Moldomusa Kongantiyev said Wednesday that Metzger had been expected to return to the United States by the weekend.

A statement from base officials said a group of 22 U.S. military investigators and logistics officers along with Kyrgyz police are involved in the search for Metzger, who was stationed at an air base near Bishkek with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing.

She was dressed in civilian clothes at the time of the disappearance, according to base officials.

Metzger's father, John, said in a telephone interview from his home in Henderson, N.C., that the family was waiting and praying.

In 2003, Jill Metzger was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany when she won the women's division of the U.S. Air Force Marathon, the Henderson Daily Dispatch reported at the time. She was a member of the Air Force-Europe team.

[Last modified September 8, 2006, 02:06:11]

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