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Iraq Transition

U.S. troops hunt '24/7' for 2 soldiers still missing

Story Highlights

NEW: President Bush says finding missing troops "a top priority" in Iraq
• "We're just not going to stop" search for two missing soldiers, officer says
• Body in river identified as Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., one of three missing soldiers
• Car bomb hits funeral procession in Falluja, kills 28, injures scores
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi troops Thursday continued their relentless search near Baghdad for two missing soldiers, a day after the body of a third U.S. soldier was found floating in the Euphrates River.

"We'll just keep hunting them 24/7. We have not stopped. You know, we're just not going to stop," said Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, commander of the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment.

"I was out with the soldiers today as they continue their search. Their mood right now is reserved and disciplined," Infanti said from a forward operating base in the Babil province town of Yusufiya. (Watch Infanti describe troops' mood as search continues Video)

At a White House news conference Thursday, President Bush said, "I'm confident that the military is doing everything it can to find the missing soldiers."

Bush said, "We're using all the intelligence and all the troops we can to find them. It's a top priority of our people there in Iraq."

The U.S. military earlier confirmed that the body dragged from the river had been identified as Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., one of three U.S. soldiers missing after an attack nearly two weeks ago.

Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle said Thursday that reports of a second body being found along with Anzack's are false.

Anzack, 20, was a gunner from Torrance, California. (Read how Anzack's hometown friends remember him)

The other two missing soldiers are Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Michigan.

Jimenez's mother, Maria del Rosario Duran, pleaded Wednesday for his safety.

"This is very hard for me and for my family," she said. "Everybody loves Alex. Alex, I miss you. Please come back. If somebody's got him, please bring my son back, please." (Watch military authorities speak of their duty to the soldier's family Video)

As the search went on for Jimenez and Fouty, Spc. Daniel Seitz, 22, a member of Anzack's platoon, told The Associated Press he was trying to remain strong.

"It just angers me that it's just another friend I've got to lose and deal with, because I've already lost 13 friends since I've been here, and I don't know if I can take any more of this," he said. (Read more about the platoon)

On May 12, insurgents attacked a U.S. military observation post outside Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, in an area known as the Triangle of Death. Four other American soldiers and an Iraqi soldier were found dead at the scene of the ambush. Anzack, Jimenez and Fouty were nowhere to be found.

A massive military manhunt in the area started immediately after news of the three soldiers' apparent abduction.

"Right now we're continuing with the same level of intensity that we've had since this incident occurred," Infanti said Thursday.

An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Wednesday that authorities in Mussayib were notified by Iraqi civilians who saw a body floating down the Euphrates. Witnesses told police the man looked "Western" and had gunshot wounds to the head and torso. (Watch Iraqis gather near the river where the body was found Video)

Col. Mike Kershaw, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said the search and questioning of detainees taken in the hunt were bearing fruit, helping the troops learn more about the insurgent group that carried out the attack.

He said troops "uncovered physical evidence in another location which ties in with the location where we found our missing soldier's body. We've been acting on that since that time period."

Kershaw said attacks are down in his unit's sector as troops fan out across the area.

During the search, troops have found insurgents they've been hunting for for some time, including some who may be linked to the May 12 incident, he said.

Car bomb kills at least 28 in funeral procession

At least 28 people were killed and 52 others were wounded Thursday when a parked car bomb detonated during a funeral procession in central Falluja, an Interior Ministry official said.

Falluja is in Anbar province, a Sunni-dominated region west of Baghdad that has been the scene of fighting between U.S. and Iraqi forces and insurgents.

Seventeen people died in other attacks Thursday in Iraq, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

Gunmen opened fire on civilians in a minibus in a village near Hussainiya, south of Baghdad, killing 11 people.

An Iraqi soldier was killed and three others were wounded when a suicide car bomber detonated at an Iraqi army checkpoint in northern Baghdad.

Three civilians were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt on a minibus in eastern Baghdad.

A roadside bomb detonated in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite district of Sadr City, killing two day laborers.

Also Thursday, 15 "suspected terrorists" were detained by U.S.-led coalition forces targeting al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said. The arrests were made in Karma in Anbar province, east of the Anbar town of Amiriya and in Mosul in northern Iraq.

Other developments

  • Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Thursday presented to parliament the names of six candidates to head the ministries formerly run by loyalists of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The al-Sadr loyalist left their posts in April after the al-Maliki government didn't meet its demand to set a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal.
  • The U.S. military is joining forces with the State Department to prepare a new Iraq strategy that includes negotiating cease-fire and power-sharing agreements with some enemy combatants, U.S. officials said Wednesday. One element of the plan is to try to identify groups of people -- possibly including Sunni extremists and militia groups -- with whom U.S. officials feel they can do business, such as negotiating power-sharing and cease-fire agreements and granting economic aid, the sources said. (Watch how the new strategy aims to create stability Video)
  • Thirty unidentified bodies were found Wednesday in Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. The latest deaths bring May's total for the Iraqi capital to 525 bodies -- all thought to be victims of sectarian violence.
  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday during combat operations in Anbar province, the military said. The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war stands at 3,428. Seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department have also been killed in the war. May's death toll is 84.
  • CNN's Arwa Damon, Barbara Starr and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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