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Iraq Transition

Military officials assuming missing soldiers alive

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NEW: "I believe they're alive," commander says
• NEW: Two top Iraqi politicians seeking medical care in U.S.
• Officer: Lack of pronouncements from captors significant
As blasts mar visit, outgoing UK leader says "Don't give in" to attacks
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Commanders are operating under the assumption that at least two of three U.S. soldiers missing in Iraq are alive, military officials told CNN.

The three have been missing since they were attacked May 12 in a raid south of Baghdad that killed four American troops and an Iraqi soldier.

An official who spoke to CNN, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the intelligence, said U.S. military commanders assume at least two of the missing soldiers are being held by an al Qaeda-affiliated group in Iraq. (Watch what troops are learning in their search for their missing comrades Video)

"I believe they're alive," Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, commander of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment in Iraq, told CNN's Arwa Damon. The soldiers are members of the regiment's 10th Mountain Division's Second Brigade Combat Team.

"I haven't seen anything that would tell me they're not [alive]," Infanti said. "I haven't seen anything that really would tell me they are, but our experiences over here are, when the bad guys come up with something, they put it out right away. They have not. It's been going on seven, a little over seven days now. So I'm going with the fact that they're still alive."

Infanti said earlier Saturday that officials have been talking to informants and detainees who have not told them the soldiers are dead. If the soldiers had been killed, Infanti said, those individuals probably would have heard about it.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told the Army Times on Friday that, "As of this morning, we thought there were at least two that were probably still alive. At one point in time, there was a sense that one of them might have died, but again, we just don't know."

Meanwhile, another senior official said that at least two of the suspects detained during the past week are believed to be directly responsible for the attack.

Also, the U.S. military confirmed Friday that various military items had been recovered that could provide clues about what happened to the soldiers, including what one official said were parts of a U.S. military uniform.

A spokesman urged caution, however, saying, "Any potential evidence we find in the field is being tested for connection to the missing soldiers. If and when that evidence is determined to be definitely connected to the search, and after we have exploited all possible intelligence, we will discuss it."

The missing soldiers have been identified as Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts; Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, California; and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Michigan. (Interactive: Details about ambushed soldiers)

On Monday, the Islamic State of Iraq -- a Sunni insurgent coalition that includes al Qaeda in Iraq -- issued a statement saying it is holding the troops and warned the U.S. military to call off its search.

CNN cannot verify the claim, which was posted on Islamist Web sites. The insurgent group offered no evidence that it was holding the soldiers.

Blasts mar Blair's Baghdad visit

Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad's Green Zone on Saturday, the day three explosions rocked the heavily fortified compound.

No one was killed, but one person was wounded, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said. A fourth blast hit outside the zone.

Speaking after the attack, described by Blair's office as a mortar strike, the prime minister acknowledged attacks happen daily in Iraq, but there are "real signs of change and progress," according to a statement from 10 Downing Street. (Watch what reports say about trouble in British sector as Blair visits Video)

"The question is, what are we going to do in the face of these attacks?" he asked, according to the statement. "The answer is, we don't give in to them."

After meeting with his Iraqi counterpart, Shiite Arab Nuri al-Maliki, and Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, Blair said the leaders agreed it was important that a "national compact" for the fractious government was necessary, and they also "agreed it should be adhered to by the neighboring countries," the statement said.

Blair, who became prime minister in 1997, announced last week that he would step down June 27.

Other developments

  • On Saturday morning, Gunmen dressed in Iraqi military uniforms raided Qara Lus, a Kurdish Shiite town near the Iranian border, killing 15 men and wounding a woman, according to a Baquba police official. Iraqi officials at the Diyala Joint Coordination Center said that all Iraqi Army units near the town were contacted, and they said they had no military operations there.
  • The U.S. military announced the deaths of five more U.S. soldiers in Iraq, bringing to eight the number of American troops killed since Friday. The military said a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier south of Baghdad on Saturday. On Friday, three U.S. soldiers were killed in an explosion in the northern province of Diyala. Also Friday, a roadside bomb and small arms fire in northwest Baghdad killed two U.S. soldiers. A U.S. soldier was killed during combat operations Friday, and another U.S. soldier was killed Friday in combat in Anbar province. Fifty-eight U.S. military service members have been killed this month, and 3,402 have been killed since the start of the war. Seven civilian contractors of the Pentagon also have been killed.
  • Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a powerful moderate Shiite politician, is in the United States for diagnosis and treatment of a condition that might be lung cancer, The Associated Press reported. Al-Hakim, 57, is at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center, AP reported, citing The Washington Post. Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a 73-year-old Kurd, will travel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for a medical checkup, AP reported.
  • CNN's Jamie McIntyre, Barbara Starr, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.



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