Thursday, May 24, 2007

Triangle of Death Hostage Search: Day 12

Casey Anzack (top) sister of Joseph J. Anzack, is comforted
The vigil was small, just members of Joseph J. Anzack Sr.’s family and a few close friends. It was led by an Army chaplain on the second floor of a stucco apartment building in Torrance, California with a yellow ribbon on the front door.

The group spoke of Joseph Jr., the handsome 20-year-old private first class and 10th Mountain Division gunner whose body had been pulled from the Euphrates River earlier Wednesday, and two other soldiers still missing following an ambush in the Triangle of Death on May 12.

Said the father:

"We said a prayer for the other two boys, then sat around and talked about Joseph, just sharing the love of my son and why we all loved him.

"I'm not really sure where I'm going to go from here. I don't know what I'm supposed to do tomorrow. But I have to keep living. I have to keep my family strong.

"His sister, she can't believe it. His mom, she's doing OK. We lost our son. It's not fair."

In an especially cruel twist of fate, Anzack's family learned on Mother’s Day that he was among the missing soldiers. Just two weeks earlier, he had been erroneously reported as killed in action and his former high school had posted In Loving Memory, Joseph Anzack, 2005 on its marquee. He later was able to assure his family by telephone he was indeed still alive.

Anzack knew what he wanted to do with his life: the military.

Said friend and football teammate Kyle Flynn:

"I just remember, as a sophomore or a junior in high school, he was set on it, said 'I'm ready to go."
Anzack played nose guard, while Flynn was a defensive back.
"He was very positive. He was a guy you could look to and say 'I'm OK. I've got Joe right there. He was a man among boys . . . You don't realize that until something like this happened."
The two other missing U.S. soldiers are Specialist Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Private Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Michigan.

U.S. military officials said Iraqi police officers had recovered Anzack’s body floating in the Euphrates about 40 miles south of Baghdad in a Sunni insurgent stronghold near the market town of Musayyib in Babel Province, which is 20 to 25 miles south of the center of the search in Mahmudiya.

Anzack may have been tortured and he appeared to have been dead for several days.

A group of soldiers who had been searching near Musayyib — and who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the operations — told a New York Times reporter that American troops might have cornered the gunmen, who then killed Anzack and dumped his body as they fled.

Said Ali Abbas Al-Fatlawi of Musayyib:

"Some people from our town — and I was with them — dragged the body from the river. We saw the head riddled with bullets, and shots in the left side of the abdomen. His hands were not tied, and he was not blindfolded."
Ali Khalid, 27, a carpenter who lives near the river, said he had used his boat to take the body to shore. Residents say the police took the body to a local hospital, where American soldiers later collected it.

Military officials said reports that a second body was found in the river were false.
* * * * *
There was an obvious change yesterday in the talk among commanders and troopers involved in the search as bold declarations about finding the men alive were replaced by vows to provide comfort and closure to their families.

At least two soldiers have already died during the massive search, and several others have been wounded. Iraqi and American officials have reported that roughly 1,000 people have been detained since the search began. Of those, commanders have said, roughly 15 are believed to have direct knowledge of the ambush.

In Alex Jimenez’s hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts, schoolchildren cut yellow construction paper ribbons with the missing soldier’s name that are being hung in every window of every city school until he returns home.

Javier Escoto, age 9, said prior to the discovery of the bodies that he wished everyone in the city could form one big search team, head to Iraq:

"I think we could do it. There's a lot of people in Lawrence. I hope he gets found. He's a soldier who wants to protect us, and we have to support him now."
Jimenez's mother, Maria del Rosario Duran, pleaded for his safety:
"This is very hard for me and for my family. Everybody loves Alex. Alex, I miss you. Please come back. If somebody's got him, please bring my son back, please."

* * * * *
Here's an index of previous Kiko's House reports on the ambush and search:
Wednesday, May 23: Are Bodies Those of Missing GIs?
Tuesday, May 22:
Ambush Victims Come Home For Burial
Monday, May 21: Hopes Grow Slimmer

Sunday, May 20:
A Flicker of Hope But the Trail Goes Cold
Saturday, May 19: The Triangle of Death Up Close

Friday, May 18:
Who Are the Dead and Missing Men?
Thursday, May 17: Has the Search Impacted on the Surge?
Wednesday, May 16: Anatomy of An Abduction & Search

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