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April 1, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
U.S. Troops Rescue POW in Iraq
American Troops Rescue Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, a Prisoner of War in Iraq Since March 23

The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON April 1

American troops on Tuesday rescued Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who had been held as a prisoner of war in Iraq since she and other members of her unit were ambushed March 23, the Defense Department announced.

Lynch, 19, of Palestine, W.Va., had been missing with 11 other U.S. soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company. The unit was ambushed near Nasiriyah after making a wrong turn during early fighting in the invasion of Iraq. Five other members of her unit were later shown on Iraqi television answering questions from their Iraqi captors.

U.S. troops rescued Lynch near where her unit was ambushed, said Jean Offutt, a spokeswoman for Fort Bliss, Texas. The 507th Maintenance is based at Fort Bliss.

Lynch had been listed as missing in action but was identified by the Pentagon Tuesday as a POW. She was not among the seven U.S. soldiers including the five from the 507th shown on television formally listed as prisoners of war.

Offutt said she did not know whether Lynch had been wounded or when she might return to the United States.

The rescued soldier's hometown erupted in celebration at the news.

"They said it was going to be the biggest party this road had ever seen," Lynch's cousin Sherri McFee said as fire and police sirens blared in the background.

"Everybody was really worried ... but we all remained hopeful and knew she would be home," McFee said.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks at Central Command headquarters in Qatar announced that a U.S. POW had been rescued but refused to provide any further details.

In a brief statement, Brooks said: "Coalition forces have conducted a successful rescue mission of a U.S. Army prisoner of war held captive in Iraq. The soldier has been returned to a coalition-controlled area."

Central Command officials in Qatar, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lynch was rescued from a hospital in Iraq.

Fifteen other Americans are formally listed as missing. The other POWs include two Army Apache helicopter pilots captured March 24 after their helicopter went down.

The 507th Maintenance was attacked during some of the first fighting in Nasiriyah, a Euphrates River-crossing city where sporadic battles have raged since U.S. troops first reached it. Troops and military officials have said much of the fighting there has involved members of the Fedayeen Saddam and other Iraqi paramilitaries who have dressed as civilians and ambushed Americans.

Lynch, an aspiring teacher, joined the Army to get an education and take advantage of a rare opportunity in a farming community with an unemployment rate of 15 percent one of the highest in West Virginia.

She was also following in the footsteps of her older brother Gregory, a National Guard member based in Fort Bragg, N.C. Jessica enlisted through the Army's delayed-entry program before graduating from Wirt County High School in Elizabeth.

"You would not believe the joys, cries, bawling, hugging, screaming, carrying on," said Lynch's cousin, Pam Nicolais, when asked Tuesday about the rescue. "You just have to be here."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called the rescue a miracle.

"God watched over Jessica and her family," Rockefeller said through a spokesman in Washington. "All of West Virginia is rejoicing. This is an amazing tribute to the skill and courage of our military."

Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson said: "We also have others, other POWs we are just as worried about. This is good news today but we need a lot more good news."

"America doesn't leave its heroes behind," Wilkinson added. "Never has. Never will."


photo credit and caption:
RETRANSMITTED TO CORRECT DATE OF AMBUSH TO MARCH 23, NOT MARCH 24 ** Jessica Lynch, 19, seen in this undated photo, one of several soldiers who went missing after their supply convoy was ambushed in southern Iraq, March 24, 2003 was rescued, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday, April 1, 2003. Lynch, 19, of Palestine, W.Va., worked as a supply clerk with the Army's 507th Maintenance Co. (AP Photo/Family Handout)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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