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Thousands of US, Iraqi Forces Search for Missing American Soldiers


Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and police are involved in an intense search for two American soldiers that an insurgent group claims to have abducted.

The U.S. military in Iraq says it is using air, naval and ground forces to find the soldiers, whose status is listed as "whereabouts unknown."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says their disappearance is of great concern to U.S. officials.

In an Internet statement Monday, an insurgent group linked to al-Qaida in Iraq claimed to have abducted the soldiers, who have been missing since an attack Friday south of Baghdad. The group, called the Mujahideen Shura Council offered no proof of its claims, and U.S. officials say they cannot confirm them.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Iraq asked for the death penalty for former leader Saddam Hussein and two of his co-defendants for the killings of 148 Shi'ites.

In closing arguments Monday in Baghdad, prosecutors asked that Saddam, his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan be sentenced to death.

The arguments begin the final phase of proceedings in the eight-month-old trial.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are accused of killing 148 Shi'ites in the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt there against him.

And the Italian news agency (ANSA) says prosecutors are seeking the indictment of a U.S. soldier in the shooting death of an Italian intelligence agent last year in Baghdad. The U.S. and Italy disagree over the circumstances of the agent's death. Rome blames the shooting on stress and inexperience of U.S. troops.