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Body found in Euphrates may be abducted US soldier

9 US troops, 100 Iraqis killed in war violence

Iraqi men and a policeman pulled a body from the Euphrates River in southern Baghdad yesterday. US officials are investigating whether it is a soldier abducted two weeks ago. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BAGHDAD -- Nine US soldiers and Marines were killed in Iraq on Tuesday, and the military was investigating whether the body of a man found in the Euphrates River early yesterday was that of an American soldier abducted during a deadly ambush south of Baghdad almost two weeks ago, US officials said.

Also yesterday, about 100 Iraqis were killed and 130 injured in mortar strikes, suicide attacks, car bombings, drive-by shootings and other violence nationwide, according to law enforcement authorities and news agency accounts.

Iraqi police said the body pulled from the Euphrates was partially clad in what appeared to be US military pants and boots. It was recovered near Musayyib, about 45 miles south of Baghdad and about 20 miles downriver from where the May 12 abduction occurred, according to Captain Muthana Ahmad, police spokesman in Babil province.

Major General William Caldwell, the top US military spokesman in Iraq, told reporters that the body had been turned over to US forces but had not been identified. The Reuters news agency quoted a river patrol officer in Musayyib as saying the man appeared to have been killed about a week ago.

In California, a woman said military officials told her family that the body had been identified as her nephew, Private First Class Joseph Anzack Jr., the Associated Press reported. Debbie Anzack said the family was told that a commanding officer identified the body, but that DNA tests were still pending.

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

Four US soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in the ambush, and three soldiers were abducted, triggering a massive manhunt in a large area south and west of Baghdad by about 6,000 US and Iraqi soldiers.

US officials said earlier this week that they believed at least two of the missing men were still alive.

The military reported seven soldiers and two Marines killed in five events on Tuesday, a particularly deadly day that underscored the increased vulnerability of US forces as they take a more visible role in trying to reduce suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, death squad massacres and other attacks that have become part of daily life in Iraq and its capital.

The new mission, which involves about 28,000 additional US troops in Baghdad and other parts of the country, was launched in mid-February and so far has had mixed success.

"As we all know, it's going to get harder before it gets easier -- this is to be expected," Caldwell said during a regular press briefing. "Overall, we have not seen an increase in violence, just an increase in fights with terrorists and extremists of all affiliations. We now have more troops conducting more operations . . . resulting in more confrontations."

Eighty US service members have been reported killed in May, an average of about 3.5 deaths per day.

The month is continuing a trend of higher US fatalities that began in December.

In the worst event Tuesday, three US soldiers were reported killed when multiple roadside bombs struck their patrol, the military reported in a statement. Two soldiers and an interpreter were injured in the attack. The statement did not say where the incident occurred.

Two soldiers were killed and three were injured by an explosion near their vehicle in Baghdad province, the military reported. A soldier was killed by small-arms fire in western Baghdad, and a soldier was killed and another wounded when a roadside bomb exploded while they were outside their vehicle in southwest Baghdad, the military said.

Two Marines were killed while conducting combat operations in Anbar province west of the capital, a statement said. No further details were available.