WASHINGTON – A Navy dive team that checked the waters off Iraq for explosives before the American invasion could be used in the search for a missing Alabama girl in Aruba (search), the country's prime minister says.
Prime Minister Nelson Oduber (search) made the request in a letter to Sen. Richard Shelby (search) in response to the Alabama Republican's suggestion that Aruba give the FBI more authority in the search for Natalee Holloway (search).
In his letter, Oduber says he was made aware of the unit — known as Naval Special Clearing Team One — by a Texas dive team that has been helping to look for Holloway.
"I would like to request you to use your influence to gain this authorization for the deployment of this unit free of charge to Aruba as soon as possible," Oduber wrote in the letter, dated July 1.
Shelby forwarded the request to the Pentagon and State departments, but a Navy spokesman, Lt. Herb Josey, said Thursday there had been no formal diplomatic request for use of the team. He also questioned how useful the unit could be, since it specializes in covert exercises such as detecting and de-mining underwater explosives.
"I don't know why this team would be better than any other team, but they obviously have experience working underwater," said Lt. Herb Josey.
In an interview from London, Shelby said he hoped Oduber's request was a genuine bid to help the investigation and not retaliation for his complaints that Aruba's search was insufficient.
"We're not going to stop," Shelby said. "We want a professional investigation of what's going on down there. We're not going to look around and ignore what looks to be not a thorough, perhaps even a shoddy investigation."
Holloway disappeared May 30 in Aruba while celebrating her graduation from high school in Mountain Brook, Ala. Although three young men have been connected with her disappearance, none has been charged.
In Shelby's original letter last week asking for more FBI involvement, he called the Aruban investigation a "dead end."