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Iraq Transition

Pilot of crashed F-16 listed as killed in action

Story Highlights

• Maj. Troy L. Gilbert now listed as "killed in action" in Iraq F-16 crash last week
• DNA testing led military to change his status from "whereabouts unknown"
• Gilbert's fighter jet crashed Monday on strafing run near Baghdad
• Family says he died protecting lives of other American troops
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An Air Force pilot whose F-16 crashed near Baghdad last week is now listed as "killed in action," according to a military news release Sunday.

The U.S. military reclassified Maj. Troy L. Gilbert's status from "duty status whereabouts unknown" to KIA on Saturday following DNA testing, the news release said.

The military believes he was unable to eject and died in Monday's crash. The cause is still under investigation. (Watch what U.S. military found at scene of Monday's crash Video)

A total of 2,894 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq war, including seven civilians working for the Defense Department.

Gilbert's family issued a statement Wednesday praising him as a husband, father and military officer and noting that at the time of the crash, he was protecting the lives of other service members.

"Troy was first and foremost a wonderful husband and father, whose Christian faith, personal values and work ethic guided his personal life and his career as a military officer," said the statement read to reporters during a news conference at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where Gilbert was based. "He was highly respected and deeply loved by so many.

"At the time of the tragedy during combat operations, he was unselfishly protecting the lives of other American military members. We, his family, cherish the worldwide prayers and support during this extremely difficult time."

Gilbert was piloting an Air Force F-16C "engaged in support of coalition ground combat operations" when it crashed about 12 miles northwest of Baghdad, the Pentagon said. He was assigned to the 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base and currently deployed to the 332nd Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Force Base.

A U.S. military official in Baghdad said the pilot was flying on a "strafing run" -- firing on targets on the ground at a low altitude -- when the incident occurred.

"Immediately after the crash, we had fighters overhead as well as surveillance assets," said Brig. Gen. Stephen Hoog of the U.S. Air Force. "Those assets did observe insurgents in the vicinity of the crash site."

It was several hours before the U.S. military could secure the site. Troops found the wreckage of the plane, an intact canopy and a tangled parachute harness. There was no sign of Gilbert.

Video aired by the Al-Jazeera network, however, appeared to show a body. The U.S. military was able to collect DNA samples from the crash site.

If Gilbert had ejected, it would have automatically activated an emergency beacon with his position. The military said no beacon was activated.

The craft he was flying was deployed from Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

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