Amid the security crackdown in Baghdad, an al-Qaida linked group has claimed responsibility Monday for abducting two U.S. soldiers from a checkpoint while the U.S. military has charged three soldiers with the murder of three detainees during an operation.
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John Burns, welcome. Thanks for being with us.
It was announced today that 8,000 American and Iraqi troops are in involved in this search for the two missing, kidnapped American servicemen. What does this search consist of, that it uses that kind of manpower?
JOHN BURNS, Baghdad Bureau Chief, New York Times:
Well, Margaret, it looks as though this is the most intensive American manhunt in the 39 months since American troops captured Baghdad.
We're told that they're searching, of course, by land, house-to-house searches. They have, quote, "cleared" 12 villages. People down there have told the New York Times that large numbers of men have been detained.
They have Predator unmanned aerial drones watching from the sky. They have fighter combat aircraft. They have larger surveillance aircraft involved.
The spread of the manhunt has gone beyond the immediate vicinity of the village of Karolgol (ph) where this occurred, which was a well-known al-Qaida stronghold, and the neighboring town of Yusufiya, and has gone north and west up the Euphrates River, towards Fallujah. So it's now spread considerably.
Eight thousand men represent a pretty large proportion of the 61,000 American and Iraqi troops and police in the Baghdad area. This is just on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, so it's a very strong, heavy commitment.
We're told that, amongst other things, American forces have switched off the power to some of these villages, that they've switched off the water to some of them. We're told by the American military command that they will not accept embeds from American media organizations in Baghdad, which were, of course, if you need to go and watch this, because they say the TTP — that's the tactics, techniques and procedures involved — are among the most classified in the American infantry. That tells us that they're playing real hardball.