WASHINGTON – A Navy pilot shot down over Iraq in January 1991 may have been captured by Iraqi forces, and members of the former Iraqi government "know the whereabouts" of the officer, the Navy has concluded.
A Navy board of inquiry concluded that there is no credible evidence that Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher (search) is dead, and it reaffirmed his official status as "missing/captured," according to the board's final report.
Navy Secretary Gordon England (search) approved the report on Wednesday, according to Lt. Erin Bailey, a Navy spokeswoman.
The Iraqi government under President Saddam Hussein (search) maintained from the start that Speicher perished at the site where his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed in the desert. No evidence to contradict that has surfaced since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, but the new Navy inquiry concluded there was no credible evidence of his death, either.
"In view of the above findings, the board concludes as to the current whereabouts and status of the person that the person missing/captured," the report said. A copy of the report was provided to The Associated Press.
After the fall of Baghdad, a team of U.S. investigators searched for evidence of Speicher's fate, but reported finding nothing conclusive.
The board of inquiry noted that years after the shootdown, which happened on the opening night of the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi government turned over a flight suit and other items associated with Speicher's aircraft.
That fact "leads us to conclude that elements of the former Iraqi regime know the whereabouts of Captain Speicher," the report said.