The Hunt for a Missing American Soldier in Baghdad

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Word of the kidnapping spread quickly among U.S. soldiers around Baghdad Monday night. Even pilots in the air heard about the disappearance soon after. I first learned of the abduction from a Blackhawk crewman, who shouted the news into my ear amid the roar of the helicopter's rotors.

"Someone's been kidnapped," he hollered.

Details remained sketchy through the night and into the morning. Official statements from the U.S. military in Baghdad said only that a U.S. soldier, whose name was not released, disappeared about 7:30 p.m. in central Baghdad, outside the Green Zone. Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for the infantry division in charge of Baghdad security, said a Baghdad resident called one of the military's tip lines saying kidnappers grabbed the soldier. Withington said the search was ongoing but offered no further information.

"We're involving all coalition forces available," Withington said.

Back at Camp Taji, a huge military base north of Baghdad that fields city patrols, commanders gathered around midnight to discuss the situation and await orders on how to join the search effort.

Early on there were rumors among the troops that the kidnappers took their hostage to a mosque somewhere in the city. If true, that will no doubt add to a sense of frustration several soldiers have voiced about mosques remaining safe havens for militants. Normally, U.S. soldiers don't enter mosques when searching neighborhoods for weapons caches and other signs of militant activity. Iraqi security forces take the lead on that, given the religious sensitivities. But some U.S. soldiers feel the inability to target mosques prevents them from confronting militias and insurgents directly.

Second Lt. Graham Ward, who was conducting house-to-house searches in western Baghdad in the days before the kidnapping, said: "They tie our hands behind our backs and expect us to climb monkey bars."

The Associated Press reported that a U.S. military official in Washington said the missing soldier was an Army translator of Iraqi descent who may have ventured into Baghdad to visit family when he was taken. So far, the house-to-house search has centered on Baghdad's central Karradah district, which U.S. and Iraqi security forces have sealed off.