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Saddam Denies Knowing of Missing Navy Pilot
Posted on December 16, 2003

Scott Speicher Saddam denied knowledge of the whereabouts of U.S. Navy Capt. Scott Speicher, who was 33 when his fighter jet went down on the first night of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But Speicher's family and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., expressed optimism Monday that the story of the father of two would finally have an ending.


Orlando Sentinel
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Special Report the Capture of Saddam Hussein 1991 Persian Gulf War

Saddam Denies Knowing of Missing Navy Pilot

Gwyneth K. Shaw, Sentinel Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- As a bedraggled Saddam Hussein faced his first session with interrogators Sunday, mixed with questions about weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda was a query about an American pilot who vanished almost 13 years ago.

Saddam denied knowledge of the whereabouts of U.S. Navy Capt. Scott Speicher, who was 33 when his fighter jet went down on the first night of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But Speicher's family and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., expressed optimism Monday that the story of the father of two would finally have an ending.

"First of all, I'm very gratified that the Department of Defense followed through on their promise that Captain Speicher was going to be a top priority," said Nelson, who toured a Baghdad prison last summer as part of the search for the Jacksonville-based airman.

"What he [Saddam] has said is he didn't know anything about it. What I think now is we've got to follow through," Nelson said. "We owe it to the family of Scott Speicher to finally resolve his fate. I'm encouraged that now we can move on and finally make that determination."

Speicher took off from the USS Saratoga in his F/A-18 fighter jet for a bombing run Jan. 17, 1991. He never returned, and after other pilots in the area of west-central Iraq reported a ball of flame, he was classified as killed in action.

At the urging of family members, the Pentagon revised the classification in 2001 to missing in action. Last year, it was changed to missing/captured.

Cindy Laquidara, an attorney for Speicher's wife, who has since remarried, and other family members said Monday that the family has been kept fully apprised by the military and that confidence is running high that questions that have lingered for more than a decade will at last be answered.

"One wouldn't expect to take Saddam Hussein into custody and have him immediately start admitting to war crimes," Laquidara said. "It's going to take some time to do a proper interrogation."

Military officials have been questioning Iraqis about Speicher as they searched for weapons of mass destruction and hunted down Saddam and his inner circle.

There is a $1 million reward for information about the pilot.

The search for Speicher, the last American missing from the Gulf War, intensified after an Iraqi defector said he had been seen alive as late as 1998. In addition, the initials "MSS" -- possibly for his full name, Michael
Scott Speicher -- were found carved into a cell wall inside Baghdad's Hakmiyah prison.

Laquidara said most of the information about Speicher is classified, but officials are gathering intelligence from a variety of sources, including lower-level Iraqis.

"We believe there are people in custody who have information," she said.

Family members have not journeyed to Iraq because of the serious security issues, Laquidara said. But relatives are prepared to travel there, or a neighboring country, if there is a break in the case, she said.


 
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Most read story about Scott Speicher:
Where is Captain Scott Speicher?


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