CAMP AS SALIYAH, Qatar – Eleven bodies -- at least some of them believed to be Americans -- were found with prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch when she was rescued in a U.S. commando raid on an Iraqi hospital, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
Lynch, a 19-year-old Army supply clerk, was captured by the Iraqis on March 23 after her maintenance unit made a wrong turn and was ambushed in the Euphrates River city of Nasiriyah. As many as 12 other members of her unit were feared captured; five of them are officially listed as POWs.
Acting on an intelligence tip about Lynch's whereabouts, U.S. special operations forces slipped behind enemy lines and seized Lynch from the hospital under cover of darkness Tuesday.
Navy Capt. Frank Thorp, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said that during the rescue operation, 11 bodies were recovered in and around the hospital.
"We have reason to believe some of them were Americans," Thorp said.
He said the military has not confirmed whether they were members of Lynch's unit, the 507th Maintenance Company.
"We don't yet know the identity of those people," Thorp said. "And forensics will determine that."
Until Tuesday, Lynch had been listed as missing in action, and her family did not know whether she was dead or alive.
Thorp said Lynch was being treated for her injuries at an American military facility Wednesday. He said he had no details on her condition or the nature of her injuries.
Thorp would not confirm reports that troops used a battlefield diversion to slip into the hospital.
The 507th was attacked during some of the earliest fighting in Nasiriyah, where Fedayeen loyalists and other hardcore Iraqi fighters are said to have dressed as civilians and ambushed Americans.
Not long after the ambush, five of Lynch's comrades showed up in a video shown on Iraqi television being asked questions by their captors.
The video also showed bodies, apparently of U.S. soldiers, which led Pentagon officials to accuse Iraq of executing some of its POWs. Officials believe the video was made in the Nasiriyah area.
Lynch, an aspiring teacher from Palestine, W.Va., joined the Army to get an education, her family said. She left a farming community with an unemployment rate of 15 percent, one of the highest levels in West Virginia.
She was following in the footsteps of her older brother Gregory, a National Guardsman based at Fort Bragg, N.C. Jessica Lynch enlisted through the Army's delayed-entry program before graduating from high school.
"You would not believe the joys, cries, bawling, hugging, screaming, carrying on," Lynch's cousin Pam Nicolais said after the rescue. "You just have to be here."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called the rescue a miracle.
"God watched over Jessica and her family," Rockefeller said through a spokesman in Washington. "All of West Virginia is rejoicing. This is an amazing tribute to the skill and courage of our military."