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Pilot shot down in Gulf War may be alive in Iraqi prison
New York Post, Tuesday, March 12, 2002
By Niles Latham in Washington D.C. and
David K. Li in New York

     A decade-long mystery about a Navy pilot - shot down on the Persian Gulf War's opening night in 1991 - deepened yesterday amid reports that he's alive and languishing in Saddam Hussein's dungeons.

     The Washington Times reported that British intelligence agencies have given the Pentagon and CIA a dramatic new report, from an unnamed source, that Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher has been secretly held by the Butcher of Baghdad for 11 years while Iraq continues to assert he is dead '

     The British  informant said Speicher's captivity is such a closely guarded secret that the chief of Iraqi intelligence and Saddam's ruthless son Uday are the only people permitted to see him.

     Buddy Harris, who married Joanne Speicher believing her husband to be dead, told The Post the family is familiar with the British intelligence revelations and other unconfirmed accounts of the airman's remarkable survival.

     "This family has been on a roller coaster, and we've heard reports even more explosive than this one," Harris said from the couple's home in Orange Park, Fla.

     "We know there are other people [intelligence agencies] working on this."

     Harris and his wife attended the funeral yesterday of an Orange Park Army Ranger killed in combat in Afghanistan.

     Pentagon officials downplayed, but did not totally deny, the Washington Times report, saying the pilot's strange and tragic case remains under investigation.

     State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday the United States complained to Iraq last week that its officials have stonewalled for a year about Speicher's status.

     Lt. Cmdr. Speicher, of Jacksonville, Fla., was flying an F-18 Hornet on Jan. 17, 1991, when his craft was hit, probably by an Iraqi missile.

     He was immediately listed among the first American servicemen killed in Operation Desert Storm, but his status was changed from "Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered" to "Missing in Action" two years ago amid questions about whether he survived.

    One member of Saddam's inner circle who defected to Jordan told U.S. investigators in 1999 that he personally drove :I healthy and alert downed American pilot from the desert to Baghdad.

    The defector identified that pilot from a photo array as Speicher.

More on Michael Speicher

PAULINE JELINEK The Associated Press -- March 11
Washington Times -- March 12, 2002
Tribune -- March 12, 2002
The Times (UK) -- March 14, 2002


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