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Iraq Transition

Troops find missing U.S. soldiers' ID cards

Story Highlights

• ID cards of two U.S. soldiers found 90 miles north of where they disappeared
• U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Baghdad
• U.S. attack helicopters kill six insurgents in Diyala; militant killed in Baghdad raid
• Decomposed bodies of 13 members of Iraq's Olympic Tae Kwon Do team found
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition forces have found the identification cards of two missing American soldiers, believed to have been abducted last month south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Saturday.

"Coalition forces raided a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq safe house near Samarra on June 9 and discovered the identification cards" of Spc. Alex R. Jimenez of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, of Waterford, Michigan, a military news release said.

The cards were recovered 90 miles (about 144 kilometers) north of where the two men disappeared, a few days after an Islamic militant group issued a video showing what appeared to be military ID cards. (Watch how troops found the ID cards Video)

The Islamic State of Iraq also announced the deaths of the two soldiers in commentary on the video, but provided no proof. (Full story)

CNN cannot independently verify the video, which terrorism expert Laura Mansfield intercepted.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said in a statement that the video "doesn't appear to contain any definitive evidence indicating the status of our missing soldiers."

"We continue to search and hope that our two missing soldiers will be found alive and in good health," he added.

Computers, video production equipment, rifles and ammunition were also found at the house near Samarra, a town north of Baghdad where the revered Shiite shrine Al-Askariya Mosque was bombed again Wednesday.

Fouty and Jimenez, assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, went missing along with Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, California, following the May 12 ambush on a military observation post south of Baghdad. Four American soldiers and an Iraqi soldier were killed in the attack near Yusufiya.

On May 23, Anzack's body was pulled from the Euphrates River in Babil province, south of Baghdad.

The Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the ambush and called on the U.S. military to halt its search for the soldiers.

Fouty's stepfather, Gordon Dibler, said he learned about the raid earlier this week. (Watch as Fouty's stepfather says how he is trying to keep hope alive Video)

"My first reaction was that at least this is something that we can physically know and see they're actively searching, and my prayers go out for those guys that are searching, too," Dibler told CNN, referring to the massive military search for the two missing soldiers.

The United States has had "a number of important intelligence breaks" in Salaheddin province, where Samarra is located, and neighboring Diyala province, reported CNN's Karl Penhaul, who's embedded with troops in the Samarra area.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of Multi-National Division-North, said these areas are considered major strongholds for al Qaeda in Iraq. The military believes al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership has switched from Baghdad and Anbar province to these locales, Penhaul reported.

Gates makes Iraq visit

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Iraq Saturday to discuss bolstering military efforts to establish security in Baghdad.

Gates, who arrived Friday, also was discussing the performance of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.

Al-Maliki held a reception for Gates on Saturday afternoon.

"We have stern intentions to trigger the partnership in the political process, and we have an opportunity ahead of us to cooperate throughout ... the national reconciliation initiative," al-Maliki said in a statement.

Al-Maliki said Iraqi forces have been able to control the streets well after this week's bombing in Samarra, and he said people from all factions had denounced the attack on the Shiite shrine.

U.S. officials are pressing Iraqi officials to pass key legislation to help end violence and promote national unity. Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds are at odds on a variety of matters, a source of much of the country's violence.

The Bush administration recently boosted U.S. troop numbers in Iraq to about 160,000.

"I think we will see some trends and be able to point in directions by September; the full impact of the surge is just beginning to be felt," Gates said at Saturday news conference with Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq .

U.S. attacks target insurgents

U.S. attack helicopters on Saturday killed six insurgents attempting to place a roadside bomb in Diyala province near Muqdadiya, the U.S. military said.

Troops in the choppers, from 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, "observed four insurgents carry a propane tank and begin digging on the side of the road."

Also Saturday, a coalition and Iraqi raid targeted a militant cell in Baghdad's Sadr City, netting 10 "suspected terrorists," killing of one militant and wounding another, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Two militants, one described as a cell leader and the other as a key facilitator, were among the 10 detained.

Four insurgents also died in coalition raids in Falluja and Mosul, the military said.

Bodies of Olympic Tae Kwon Do team found

The decomposed bodies of 13 members of Iraq's Olympic Tae Kwon Do team were found this week near a highway in Anbar province more than a year after the team disappeared while driving from Baghdad to Jordan, police said Saturday.

Fifteen team members were reported missing on May 15, 2006. Two of them are still missing, police said.

Ramadi police Col. Tareq al-Thibawi said a highway patrol found the corpses, with their IDs nearby, near a road between Ramadi and Falluja.

CNN's Saad Abedine, Karl Penhaul and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.


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An insurgent video released this month shows the identification cards of Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, left, and Spc. Alex R. Jimenez.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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