ITH V CORPS HEADQUARTERS, near the Kuwait
border, March 29 — The bodies of four American servicemen have
been found by the Marines in a shallow grave in the
battle-worn city of Nasiriya, near the Euphrates River.
Military officials said they believed that the four were
executed by Iraqi paramilitary forces after they were seized
in an ambush last Sunday.
Military officials declined to speculate about whether the
four bodies were those of captured American soldiers who were
shown alive by Al Jazeera network last weekend. The military
had heard reports that the soldiers were executed after
appearing on the Arab network, but there had been no
On Friday, a Marine unit found the four bodies in a freshly
dug grave near a house in the northeast corner of Nasiriya. An
Army official said the bodies were wearing American military
uniforms. But confusion remained concerning their branch of
Today a forensic team, military investigators and a member
of the V Corps Staff Judge Advocate's office was being flown
to the site. Officers said the deaths were tentatively being
treated as a war crime.
The soldiers seized at Nasiriya were among 10 listed as
missing in action since the fighting began. V Corps officers
said the names of the soldiers found dead would be released
after their families were notified.
The ambush took place in Nasiriya, in southeastern Iraq, an
important crossing point over the Euphrates northwest of
According to Army officers, soldiers of a maintenance unit
were traveling on Highway 1, a main north-south artery, in
darkness in a convoy of six vehicles around 1 a.m. last Sunday
The unit had been sent to supply an antiaircraft battery in
At a certain point the convoy took a wrong turn, mistakenly
leaving Highway 1. As the convoy moved toward the first of
several bridges into the town, the Americans realized they had
taken a wrong turn, officials said.
As the Americans made a hasty U-turn, they were confronted
by two Iraqi T-55 tanks. A company-size Iraqi military unit
was also moving toward the Americans. The American soldiers
came under rocket and small-arms fire.
In the fight that followed, the first two vehicles — a
Humvee and a tool truck — were separated from the four other
An Army captain in the Humvee drove the vehicle carrying
wounded soldiers through the gunfire. According to one
account, the officer drove nearly four miles before being
forced to stop when the bullet-riddled tires finally went
The officer got out and began changing the tires of the
Humvee, when a United States Marine unit on patrol saw him and
the soldiers in his vehicle, officers said. The marines
immediately called in a medevac helicopter, which evacuated
the officer and his wounded soldiers. Some of the soldiers
were seriously hurt; one was shot in the jaw.
The marines resumed their patrol, looking for fedayeen, the
Iraqi paramilitary force. Within minutes, they came upon two
American vehicles, smashed with bullets. Two other vehicles
were burning. No Americans were in sight.
Hours later, pictures of American soldiers, some dead and
some captured, were shown on the Arab television station Al
Jazeera. Some soldiers appeared to have bullet wounds to the
head. The uniforms of other soldiers were stained with
One captured soldier was asked, with Iraqi television
microphones in front of him, why he had come to fight the
"I didn't come here to kill anyone," the soldier said. "I
was told to shoot only if shot at."
One soldier said, "I follow orders." Asked if the Iraqi
people had greeted him with flowers or guns, the soldier
replied, "I don't understand."
Within 24 hours, the Army was hearing reports that some of
the soldiers had been executed after appearing on