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Kidnapped US 'soldier' in photo may be a toy

DUBAI -- A website posted a photograph of what it claimed was a US soldier kidnapped in Iraq, but doubts were quickly raised about its authenticity after a US toy manufacturer said yesterday that it appeared to show a model soldier made by the company.

''Our mujahideen . . . have managed to capture the American soldier John Adam after killing a number of his colleagues," said the Mujahideen Squadrons in the undated statement on a website monitored in Dubai. It threatened to kill him.

But Liam Cusack, marketing coordinator for California-based Dragon Models USA, said the picture appeared to show a special forces operative figure called Special Ops Cody that the company had made for collectors.

Defense officials at the Pentagon in Washington said last night that the US military had no indication any of its soldiers were missing in Iraq.

Cusack said the striking similarity between his company's action figure and the published picture were pointed out to him by an Arizona retailer.

''I worked on the development of that figure so I had seen the look of that head before," Cusack said. ''We don't want to be the ones to say that it is [a hoax] for sure. Because if there is a search and rescue, that needs to be done."

Cusack, speaking from his office at City of Industry, Calif., noted the rifle being pointed at the figure in the photograph posted on the website also appeared to be the plastic M4 rifle included with the figure.

The message and photograph were posted on a site run by a group calling itself al-Muntada al-Ansar, which has recently restricted access to registered users in an effort to avoid unknown groups posting messages.

The site has been the main channel of communication in recent months for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an Al Qaeda leader.

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