Remains Found At Crash Site May Be Those Of U.S. F-16 Pilot info
November 30, 2006
By Nancy Trejos, Washington Post Staff Writer
BAGHDAD, Nov. 29 -- U.S. military officials said Wednesday that they are trying to determine if human remains found at the crash site of an Air Force F-16 fighter jet 20 miles northwest of Baghdad are those of the plane's pilot.
The officials identified the pilot as Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, who had been deployed to Balad Air Base from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. They provided no other details about the pilot.
Gilbert's plane crashed in volatile Anbar province Monday afternoon as he flew low to the ground in support of ground troops fighting insurgents.
It took hours for U.S. troops to arrive at the crash site, and by the time they did, Gilbert was gone, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, said earlier this week. Even as television networks reported that they had video footage of the dead pilot, U.S. officials remained vague about what had been found at the crash site.
Caldwell said there were no indications that the plane had been shot down, despite the presence of insurgents in the area. He said it appeared that the pilot had not ejected from the plane.
Officials said Gilbert would still be labeled as on duty with his whereabouts unknown pending results of a DNA analysis, which is being conducted in the United States.
"Our priority at this time is providing as much factual information and support as possible to the Gilbert family, while positively identifying the human remains found at the crash site," said Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces.
U.S. forces have participated in heavy fighting across Iraq in recent days, capturing or killing a number of insurgents. There also have been civilian and military casualties.
Over the course of a week, troops captured 11 suspected senior-level members of Ansar al-Sunna, a Sunni extremist group thought to be linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq, during a series of raids in north-central Iraq.
In Baqubah, in central Iraq, U.S. forces said they killed eight members of al-Qaeda in Iraq in a raid early Wednesday. U.S. aircraft fired on the suspects in response to machine-gun and rifle fire. In a search of the area afterward, troops found two dead female civilians.
The day before, six Iraqis, including five young girls, were killed during a firefight between U.S. troops and suspected insurgents in western Iraq. An increasing number of civilians have been killed in Iraq each month, most from sectarian violence but others from the crossfire between troops and insurgents.
The U.S. military also announced the death of a service member in combat in Anbar province, increasingly one of the deadliest areas of the country for American troops.
A soldier was killed Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Salahuddin province, northwest of the capital. A second soldier was injured.
Violence continued in the capital, where police found 28 bodies over a 24-hour period.
A roadside bomb exploded at a square in central Baghdad, killing one civilian and injuring three, an Information Ministry official said.
For the second time in a week, a gunfight erupted at the Shiite-run Health Ministry after it was attacked by mortar and missile fire. Last Thursday, when more than 200 civilians were killed by a series of attacks in the slum of Sadr City, hundreds of employees were trapped in their offices for hours until Iraqi and U.S. forces rescued them.
"It is just the usual daily shooting at the ministry, but today it has just increased a bit," said Qasim Yahya, the Health Ministry spokesman.
He said that guards at the ministry battled the gunmen but that once again Iraqi troops were there to rescue them.
"If we shoot a bullet, we will be shot with 10," he said.
Special correspondent Saad al-Izzi contributed to this report.