U.S. rescues POW captured in ambush

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

WASHINGTON -- 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 since nine days ago 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.

'We all remained hopeful'

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.

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, 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. She comes from a farming community with an unemployment rate of 15 percent -- one of the highest in West Virginia.

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."

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," he added. "Never has. Never will."

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