U.S. gets remains of its last MIA of Iraq war

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Al-Taie was captured after slipping away to see his wife.
Staff Sgt. Ahmed Al-Taie was captured after slipping away to see his wife. (Family photo via AP)

Six years after the abduction, an ID was made at Dover.

Posted: February 27, 2012

BEIRUT - The U.S. military has recovered the remains of the last U.S. service member missing in Iraq, ending a nearly six-year ordeal involving shadowy militants and a tragic love story, his family said Sunday.

About 1 a.m. Sunday, a U.S. officer knocked on the door of the family home in Ann Arbor, Mich., with news that Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed Al-Taie was confirmed dead. The officer had no details yet on how or when he died, said Entifadh Qanbar, Al-Taie's uncle and an aide to Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi. Al-Taie was the last U.S. soldier unaccounted for in Iraq.

His brother, Hathal Al-Taie, said the military had confirmed the identity through a DNA test.

"The officer came eight hours ago and told us," Al-Taie said. "We've been waiting for five years, suffering, not knowing if he's alive or dead. This was not the news we wanted, of course, but it's better than staying like that, without ever knowing what happened to him."

"There is closure now, but we still want to know: Was he killed, or did he die by natural causes in the hands of the group?" Qanbar said, noting that his nephew had kidney problems that could have worsened during his time as a hostage.

Hathal Al-Taie said the military hadn't yet released the remains to the family because no decision had been made yet on whether to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery or near his family's home in Michigan.

In 2006, gunmen abducted Al-Taie, an Iraqi-born reservist who was 41 at the time, after he sneaked out of the Green Zone in Baghdad to visit his new Iraqi wife.

In the days after he went missing, the Stars and Stripes newspaper reported, at least one soldier was killed; others were wounded in the search for Al-Taie. His official status was "missing-captured" until the Iraqi government turned over his remains to U.S. officials Feb. 22, Qanbar said. The family was notified three days later, apparently after forensics tests at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware confirmed his identity.

Several arrests were made in the case, but which group captured Al-Taie was never determined for certain. Qanbar and U.S. officials have said they believed the abduction was the work of a splinter group from the movement loyal to the militant Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Family members had warned Al-Taie that leaving the Green Zone was too dangerous - as well as against military rules - but he was in love with his bride, Israa Sultan, and wanted to spend an Islamic holiday with her off base, Qanbar said.

"All I heard was a woman screaming on the phone," he said, recalling the phone call from Al-Taie's wife seconds after his capture from a busy Baghdad street in daylight. "She said, 'They just took Ahmed right in front of me! They put him in a car and drove away.' "

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