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One missing soldier is found dead

The body of Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. is pulled from a river 11 days after he and two others vanished.

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 24, 2007


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TORRANCE, Calif. - About a month ago, the family of Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. endured the most frightening of rumors: The soldier was dead in Iraq.

After messages were posted on MySpace.com, South High School, where he had played football, put a message on a sign outside that said: "In Loving Memory Joseph Anzack Class of 2005." It wasn't until the Red Cross helped his father speak with him by phone that the family could put the rumor to rest.

On Wednesday, the family relived the trauma - only this time, it was real. Anzack was identified as the soldier whose body was found in the Euphrates River in Iraq after being abducted with two comrades a week and a half ago, a relative said.

"They told us, 'We're sorry to inform you the body we found has been identified as Joe, '" said the soldier's aunt, Debbie Anzack. "I'm in disbelief."

Military officials told Anzack's family that a commanding officer identified the body but that DNA tests were still pending, she said.

Anzack, 20, of Torrance, was one of three soldiers who vanished after their combat team was ambushed May 12 about 20 miles outside Baghdad. Five others, including an Iraqi, were killed in the ambush.

The U.S. military has conducted a search that has included 4, 000 U.S. troops and 2, 000 Iraqis. Two soldiers, not yet identified, have died in the search.

Iraqi police said the body found in the river Wednesday was spotted about 40 miles south of Baghdad in the small city of Mussayib, which is known as a haven for Sunni insurgents. The location was 12 miles south of the area where the missing soldiers' unit operates.

A second body was found in the area, but there was no immediate word if it was also one of the missing soldiers, according to a U.S. military official who requested anonymity because the information had not been released.

In the soldiers' hometowns, the discovery of the body cast a pall after days of optimism that all the soldiers might be found alive. Still missing are Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., and Spc. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.

In Lawrence, Mass., a yellow ribbon was tied to the front door of the home of Jimenez's father, Ramon "Andy" Jimenez. Ramon Jimenez, who speaks Spanish, said through a translator that he has been buoyed by the support of friends and family.

"The hope is very high that God is going to give Alex back to him, " said Wendy Luzon, a family friend who translated.

In Commerce Township, Mich., a dozen trees that line the road leading to Fouty's high school were adorned with yellow ribbons.

Fouty's stepgrandmother, Mary Dibler of Oxford, Mich., said the family was heartened by the support but saddened by the news about Anzack.

"We're just continuing the same as we have been, one day at a time, " Dibler said. "We continue to pray; that's all we can do."

Fast Facts:

Latest developments

U.S. deaths: American forces disclosed nine more deaths, raising to 20 the number of U.S. troops killed in four days. The deaths of the seven soldiers and two Marines in a series of attacks Monday and Tuesday brought the American death toll for the month to at least 80. Last month, 104 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq.

Violence: Nationwide at least 104 people were killed in sectarian violence or found dead Wednesday, including 32 who perished in suicide bombings. More than three months into a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive designed to curtail sectarian violence in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, Health Ministry statistics show that such killings are rising. From the beginning of May until Tuesday, 321 unidentified corpses, many dumped and showing signs of torture and execution, have been found across the Iraqi capital, according to morgue data. The data showed that the same number of bodies were found in all of January, the month before the launch of the Baghdad security plan.

Politics: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced he was ready to fill six Cabinet seats vacated by politicians loyal to radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in a mass resignation last month.

Intelligence: U.S. intelligence agencies warned senior members of the Bush administration in early 2003 that invading Iraq could create internal conflict that would give Iran and al-Qaida new opportunities to expand their influence, according to an upcoming Senate report. Officials familiar with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation also say analysts warned against U.S. domination in the region, which could increase extremist recruiting. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the report's declassification is not finished.

[Last modified May 24, 2007, 01:32:19]


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