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Jan 24th, 2011

Search Goes on for Missing Americans in Iraq

Special unit is dedicated to searching for 13 who are missing, including seven Americans

Image: U.S. Air Force Maj. Jimmy Smith holds a flyer with the photos of missing persons
U.S. Air Force Maj. Jimmy Smith holds a flyer with the photos of missing persons Bob Hamza, left, Abbas Kareem Naama, center and U.S. Army reservist Ahmed Kousay al-Taie, right, in Baghdad, Iraq. Maj. Smith is the head of the Personnel Recovery Division that is responsible for finding missing U.S. service members and others. (Photo credit: Maya Alleruzzo / AP)

By Kim Gamel

February 23, 2011

BAGHDAD — The U.S. soldier was out of uniform when he sneaked off base on a motorcycle to visit his Iraqi wife in central Baghdad. The militiamen hiding nearby weren’t fooled. They were seen seizing him at gunpoint.

More than four years later, Ahmed Kousay al-Taie, a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan who was born in Iraq, is the only American service member still missing here. His family fears he will never be found.

At the twilight of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, a unit is dedicated to searching for al-Taie and 12 missing civilians, including seven Americans. Its mission is a key piece of unfinished business for the U.S. as it prepares to withdraw its remaining troops from Iraq by the end of this year. …

Al-Taie, an Army interpreter, was kidnapped on Oct. 23, 2006. About a week later, a family member received a ransom demand, the U.S. military told The Associated Press. …

The missing soldier was last seen four months after his abduction, in a video posted on the Internet by a Shiite militant faction called Ahl al-Bayt Brigades. …

In the meantime, the military promoted al-Taie in absentia from specialist to staff sergeant. He became the only military service member still missing after the 2009 discovery of the remains of Navy pilot Scott Speicher, who was shot down 18 years earlier, on the first night of the Gulf War.

The search effort is now in the hands of the military’s Personnel Recovery Division, a group of 20 people overseen by Col. Michael Infanti of Stafford, Virginia.

Full story


2/27/12 Update

Remains Recovered of Last GI Missing in Iraq

Image: Ahmed Kousay al-Taie
Staff Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie, an Army interpreter who was born in Iraq, lived in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Photo: Anonymous / via AP)

By Qassim Abdul-Zahra

February 27, 2012

BAGHDAD — A Shiite extremist group handed over a simple wooden casket containing the remains of the last U.S. soldier missing in Iraq, a prominent Iraqi lawmaker said Monday, drawing a close to a case that has anguished the American’s family since his 2006 disappearance.

Shiite lawmaker Sami al-Askari, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the remains of Staff Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie were turned over last week as part of a prisoner exchange agreement between the Iraqi government and the militant group Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

The Pentagon confirmed Sunday that it had recently received remains that were verified as al-Taie’s. But al-Askari’s comments provide the first confirmation that Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-backed insurgent group, was responsible for the 2006 kidnapping of al-Taie after the Iraqi-born soldier sneaked out of the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad to visit his wife and family on a Muslim holiday.

Al-Askari said Asaib Ahl al-Haq last week acknowledged killing al-Taie within a year of his October 2006 abduction. He said he did not know exactly when al-Taie was killed. …

Al-Taie moved to the United States at age 12 after his family left Iraq in the late 1970s, when Saddam Hussein was ascending to power. His family described him as a pilot and airplane mechanic who lived with his parents in Ann Arbor, Mich.

He met his wife during a trip to Iraq shortly after Saddam’s fall from power in 2003. In December 2004, he joined an Army reserve program for native speakers of Arabic and other strategic languages, and deployed a year later to Iraq, where he worked with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baghdad until he was kidnapped in 2006.

At the time he was seized, kidnappings for ransom or political motives, mostly of Iraqis but also many foreigners, were common. The February 2006 bombing of a Shiite mosque by Sunni insurgents caused retaliatory bloodshed to spiral, and death squads roamed Iraq’s streets.

Al-Taie’s relatives say he often met secretly with his wife at her family’s home despite warnings that he was in danger of being kidnapped.

Image: Ahmed Kousay al-Taie and his wife Israa Abdul-Satar
Ahmed Al-Taie often met secretly with his wife at her family’s home in Baghdad despite warnings that he was in danger of being kidnapped, relatives said. (Photo: Anonymous / via AP)

After al-Taie disappeared on Oct., 23, 2006, American commanders immediately launched a massive manhunt for him. About a week later, a family member received a ransom demand and was shown a grainy video on a hand-held device of a man whom extremists claimed was al-Taie.

Relatives demanded better proof, and negotiations with various intermediaries lasted for years. Al-Taie was last seen four months after his abduction in a video posted on the Internet by a Shiite militant faction called the Ahl al-Bayt Brigades, which is linked to Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or Band of the People of Righteousness, is a Shiite militant group in Iraq. It generally relies on Iran, the regional Shiite power, for support, including around $5 million in cash and weapons each month, according to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials. Officials believe there are fewer than 1,000 Asaib Ahl al-Haq militiamen, and their leaders live in Iran. …

Full story


Topical reports on this site

The Last American Killed in the Iraq War (Dec. 18, 2011)

Taliban Captures U.S. Troop (July 25, 2010)

Bowe Bergdahl POW Taliban Tape (April 8, 2010)

MIA Scott Speicher Recovered (Aug. 2, 2009)

Captured U.S. Soldier Identified (July 19, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — January 24, 2010

Obama Set to Change Course

One year ago today, I reported that President Barack Obama recalled his former campaign manager, David Plouffe, and was reconstituting the team that helped him win the White House in 2008 to counter Republican challenges in the 2010 midterm elections and recalibrate after political setbacks that have narrowed his legislative ambitions. I also reported on the political psychology of Barack Obama, including Obama’s personality profile, leadership style, and decision-making style.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — January 24, 2009

Countdown to Iraqi Elections

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and a radical anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr emerge from their meeting in Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, in this October 2006 file photograph. Muqtada al-Sadr, a key Shiite leader whose support for al-Maliki has recently waned, took the lead in assailing the government over the bombing of Askariya shrine in Samarra and ordering his 30-lawmaker bloc to boycott the parliament to protest its failure to protect the shrine. From AP Photo by ALAA AL-MARJANI.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr emerge from a meeting in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, in this October 2006 file photograph. (Photo credit: Alaa Al-Marjani / AP)

Two years ago today, on Jan. 24, 2009, I reported on the Iraqi provincial elections and the power struggle among competing Shiite factions in Iraq.

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