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Uncle: Abducted U.S. soldier appears in video

Story Highlights

NEW: U.S. military analyzing video for authenticity
• Sgt. Ahmed K. Altaie was kidnapped in October while serving as translator
• Unknown group "Ahel al-Beit Brigades" makes first claim of responsibility
• "It's 100 percent him," Altaie's uncle, Entifadh Qanbar, tells CNN
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The uncle of an Iraqi-American U.S. soldier abducted last October in Baghdad identified his missing nephew Wednesday in a video posted on a militant Shiite Web site.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ahmed K. Altaie was kidnapped October 23 while serving as a translator for the U.S. military and has since been listed as "duty status whereabouts unknown."

The previously unknown group identified themselves as the "Ahel al-Beit Brigades" in a message posted on a Web site for supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Medhi militia. (Watch the "first proof of life" of the kidnapped U.S. soldier since his abduction last year Video)

The Web posting said, "we have captured American solider Ahmed Qusay of the 4th Brigade," referring to the soldier's U.S. military unit. "We warn the American people to avoid sending their soldiers to Iraq in order that they not have the same fate of other soldiers who are being killed, wounded and captured."

The soldier's uncle, Entifadh Qanbar, told CNN he has been in touch with the abductors and he said the video is "proof of life," a step in the negotiation process that has been stalled for a couple of weeks.

"It's 100 percent him," said Qanbar, who spoke to CNN from Washington, D.C. "It looks like he lost some weight, but he's in great shape. I never lost hope."

The U.S.-led coalition has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Altaie's recovery.

Mother: Altaie wants to help both sides

In November, Altaie's mother, Nawal Altaie of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said her son came to the United States as a teenager and wants to "help both sides and bring peace."

The reservist had worked in aircraft maintenance before enlisting in the Army as a translator, according to his parents.

Military officials said last year that Sgt. Altaie joined the reserves two years earlier and was sent to Iraq in November of 2005.

The video portion of the posting is 10 seconds long and shows Altaie from the shoulders up, wearing a white shirt and speaking against a white wall. There is no audio.

It's unknown when the video was made but it is the first public claim of responsibility for the kidnapping of Sgt. Altaie, whose rank was Army specialist at the time of the abduction.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Wednesday the U.S. military is analyzing the video "to ascertain its authenticity."

"We maintain a team dedicated that has a sole mission of working personnel recovery, we continue to follow each lead," said Caldwell. "We're very concerned about Spc. Altaie, or now Sgt. Altaie -- we continue tracking and monitoring that situation."

The pro-Sadr Web site typically features new statements by the cleric and pictures or videos of operations carried out by the Medhi militia against U.S. and British military forces.

An aide to al-Sadr denied that the group had any link to Altaie's abduction. (Watch why the anti-American cleric reportedly has fled Iraq to Iran, fearing for his safety)

Uncle says he's received e-mails from group

Qanbar said the group that posted the video has been e-mailing him for some time and told the family they wanted to negotiate. When the family demanded the group show Altaie was still alive, they refused and halted communication. The last e-mail Qanbar said he received was January 27.

"We were looking for a proof of life. A proof of life was the condition for us to continue the dialogue with them. Now we have it," he said.

Qanbar declined to elaborate what his next step would be, but he urged the group to release Altaie, highlighting that he is a Muslim.

"Keeping him or harming him is not going to do good for anyone in this situation," he told CNN.

The U.S. military believes Altaie left the Green Zone area to visit family members when he was abducted.

"He was reportedly at a relative's house when three cars pulled up to the residence," Caldwell said last October. "The men who were described to have dark colored rags over their nose and mouths, handcuffed the soldier and forced him into one of their vehicles."

Caldwell said in October that a "relative who claimed to have been at the residence when the abduction occurred was reportedly contacted by the alleged kidnappers using the soldier's personal cell phone."

U.S. troops immediately began a search. They launched raids, including operations at a TV station and a mosque, closed down roads and checked vehicles.

Altaie is married to an Iraqi woman who lived in Baghdad as recently as last November. His parents said the couple met in Baghdad before he began his military service, and they had planned to move together to America.

Earlier reports had raised the question of whether the soldier's marriage to an Iraqi violated military regulations, which forbid troops from marrying citizens of a country where U.S. forces are engaged in combat.

But last year Caldwell said Altaie had not violated any rules, because the couple had married before he deployed to Iraq.

CNN's Arwa Damon, Yousif Bassel, Jomana Karadsheh and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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A man identified as U.S. soldier Ahmed K. Altaie appeared in a video Wednesday posted on a Web site used by militants.


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