August 08, 2003

Genetic material does not match missing Gulf War pilotís

By Pauline Jelinek
Associated Press

Genetic material found in a prison cell in Iraq did not match that of a Navy pilot missing since the 1991 Gulf War, but investigators continue to search for other evidence of his fate.
Invading U.S. forces in April said they had found the initials of then-Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher scratched into a cell in an Iraqi prison where Speicher may have been held at some point over the past decade. But preliminary tests on hair found in the cellís drain show it doesnít match Speicherís DNA, two defense officials indicated Friday.

Further testing may be done on the evidence, as well as on the initials, officials said. And the search for other clues continues.

Speicher originally was declared killed in action after his FA-18 Hornet was shot down over Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991. His flight suit was found at the crash site.

His status was changed a decade later to missing in action and then ďmissing-captured,Ē to reflect unconfirmed reports he was once in Iraqi hands.

Saddamís government has said repeatedly that Speicher was killed and denied holding him prisoner.

In April, as coalition troops moved in for another war against Saddam, soldiers found the initials in the cell at Hakmiyah prison. U.S. officials said they had other evidence Speicher may have been held there, but added that Saddamís regime frequently moved prisoners of war.

Troops have been interrogating Iraqi officials captured in the war that started in March, as well as studying prison documents for any information on Speicherís fate.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.,