BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces searching a car after a shootout near a checkpoint recovered two M-16 (search) rifles belonging to American soldiers abducted and killed north of Baghdad in June, the U.S. military said Monday.
The soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division (search) found the rifles in the trunk of a car stopped after a firefight late Sunday, said Lt. Col. George Krivo, coalition military spokesman. Shots were exchanged when the red sedan tried to run a checkpoint about 30 miles north of Baghdad, near the town of Balad, he said. One Iraqi in the car was killed, and three others were captured.
The vehicle is believed to be the same red Capri sedan that fled the scene of a roadside bomb that detonated two hours earlier and targeted coalition forces, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.
The M-16s were identified by their serial numbers, Krivo said.
The guns belonged to two soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment, who were deployed to Baghdad from Fort Sill, Okla., the military official said. Troops also found an AK-47 automatic assault weapon, an Iraqi military uniform and other equipment in the Capri, he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Philippe Gladimir, 37, from Linden, N.J., and Pfc. Kevin Ott, 27, from Columbus, Ohio, were reported missing June 25.
They were believed to have been abducted while guarding a cache of captured explosives near Halabsa, a village in an area where Saddam Hussein's paramilitary Fedayeen soldiers once had a headquarters, according to the statement.
Search teams dispatched at the time found no trace of the men, although personal items belonging to the soldiers were found in a house-to-house search June 27.
Their bodies were found west of the town of al Taji on June 28, Central Command said.
The three Iraqis captured Sunday with the M-16 rifles remain in the custody of the 4th Infantry Division, the statement said.
"There will be an investigation to find out the circumstance of how they came about to be possessing these weapons," Krivo said, "and then, depending on the outcome of that investigation, we'll take the next step, whatever it may be."