The remains of a U.S. fighter pilot shot down during the first Gulf War have been found in Iraq, putting to rest the nearly two-decade-old question of whether he was dead or alive.

The U.S. military says it has positively identified the remains of Navy Captain Michael Scott Speicher, whose jet was shot down over west-central Iraq on January 17, 1991.

A U.S. Department of Defense statement Sunday says Iraqi citizens led U.S. Marines to the burial site in the desert.  One Iraqi said he was present when Speicher crashed, adding that the fighter pilot did not survive and was buried by Bedouins. 

President Barack Obama said the recovery of Speicher's remains is a reminder of the pilot's selfless service.  Mr. Obama commended the Marines who worked to find the remains, and he offered his thoughts and prayers to Speicher's family.

There had been speculation that Speicher was captured alive and imprisoned, after investigators found what appeared to be his initials scratched into a prison wall.  

Scientists have tested the jawbone recovered from the site and said it matched Speicher's dental records.

Speicher was 33 years old and married with two young children when he went missing in Iraq.  He was the first U.S. casualty of the Gulf War.

Speicher's F/A-18 Hornet was shot down on the first night of the U.S.-led war that forced Saddam Hussein's Iraq to end its seven-month occupation of Kuwait.       

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, expressed sorrow to the Speicher family and reiterated the military's commitment to find all people who have gone missing while serving the United States.