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U.S. troops' remains found near Nasiriyah

WASHINGTON -- The remains of American troops have been discovered in southern Iraq near where paramilitary forces loyal to Saddam Hussein have been accused by the Pentagon of executing U.S. service members after they'd surrendered.

U.S. Central Command spokesman Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart told reporters today in Qatar of the situation developing in the vicinity of Nasiriyah. He said a U.S. mortuary affairs team is en route to the site. He said he couldn't tell reporters whether the remains belonged to troops who'd been involved in the March 24 engagement in and around the city.

Several service members are listed as missing after that action, in which Saddam-aligned irregular forces attacked a U.S. supply convoy that had gotten lost. The Iraqis quickly paraded some U.S. captives on state-run television. The videotape also showed some dead American troops, who'd been positioned for the camera.

Some senior Pentagon leaders who'd viewed the tape, including Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believe it's possible the dead troops were executed with shots in the head after they'd surrendered.

The mortuary team "will conduct normal levels of investigation," Renuart noted. "We will also approach it from the aspect to ensure that there were no war crimes committed that may have caused their deaths. We'll have a full forensic evaluation as well."

The Iraqis currently hold five U.S. prisoners of war taken from the March 24 action, plus two American helicopter pilots seized in another incident.

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