U.S. Offers $200,000 Reward for Missing Soldiers

The U.S. military is offering up to $200,000 for information leading to the return of three missing American soldiers in Iraq. The troops were captured Saturday by insurgents south of Baghdad. The offer is being advertised on 50,000 leaflets being distributed in the area where the soldiers disappeared.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

And I'm Andrea Seabrook.

In Iraq, the search continues for three American soldiers missing after their patrol was attacked last Saturday south of Baghdad. More than 4,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers are involved in a massive search operation. NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports on what the military is doing to find the men and their captors.

JAMIE TARABAY: The U.S. military has announced a reward of up to $200,000 for information leading to the capture of those responsible for abducting the U.S. soldiers. In the 96 hours since the attack that left four Americans and one Iraqi translator dead, more than 140 tips have been called in to the U.S. military.

Major General Rick Lynch, commander of the forces involved in the search south of Baghdad, says the tips have led to 37 different operations in the area known as the Triangle of Death. Eight of those operations were air assaults. In a teleconference with reporters in Baghdad, Lynch said more than 600 people have been detained for questioning. The majority of them are being held by Iraqi forces.

Major General RICK LYNCH (Commander, Task Force Marne, U.S. Army): So some of these reports tell us that our soldiers have been killed. Some of these reports tells us our soldiers - they were alive. And we're following up on all the reports.

TARABAY: One tip led U.S. troops to a canal which runs 20 feet deep. Lynch said the canal was drained until it was shallow enough for soldiers to wade through to check for bodies. The military is also using dogs in the search. Lynch says the pre-dawn attack on Saturday appeared to have been a carefully laid trap. The attackers made it past three rolls of concertina wire to reach the American patrol.

An al-Qaida-linked group claimed it has the soldiers. And in an Internet posting, the group taunted the U.S. military, telling it to stop looking for the missing men because it will bring nothing but exhaustion. Lynch says he's seeing no evidence to back up the group's claims.

Maj. Gen. LYNCH: We're not going to stop looking for our soldiers until we find those soldiers, whatever they put on the Internet, whatever pronouncements they make.

TARABAY: Meanwhile, Baghdad's fortified Green Zone came under fire for the second day in a row. Ten mortar shells landed near a building where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was presiding over a ceremony. A roadside bomb in Central Baghdad killed at least one and wounded three others.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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