Eleven Green Beret soldiers who entered Iraq on a sabotage and spy mission are missing in action but their disappearance has not been acknowledged by the military, according to a published report.
The soldiers were part of special operations forces that infiltrated Iraq during Operation Desert Storm to locate missile launchers, pinpoint air targets and steal enemy equipment, Newsweek reported in its March 18 issue.The magazine also said the Pentagon denied the existence of some covert operations even after they ended in U.S. deaths.
A senior Pentagon military official, speaking Monday on condition of anonymity, said he had heard nothing about 11 missing Green Berets. But he also acknowledged, "If there was some reason we thought we could get them back, we wouldn't announce it."
U.S. military officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, declined to discuss the report. "If it's Special Operations we do not discuss it," said Army Maj. Thomas Nickerson.
Newsweek also reported that seven people reported killed in the crash of a helicopter in Saudi Arabia were attempting to rescue three commandos stranded inside Iraq. Military officials say the helicopter was on a routine medical evacuation mission.
The Associated Press reported later that the helicopter was a Special Forces aircraft that crashed in a fierce sandstorm at Raffa, a base in the western Saudi desert. Many of the Green Beret operations inside Iraq came from Raffa, military sources said.
A visitor to Raffa, who asked not to be named, said he saw the wreckage and was told it was bringing wounded Green Berets back from Iraq when it crashed.
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf acknowledged on Feb. 27 that Army Special Forces operatives were part of the allied forces deployed against Iraq.
Military officials have said the helicopter crashed Feb. 21, but a similar incident reported Sunday by the British newspaper The Independent gave the date as Feb. 2.
The elite troops operating inside Iraq "contributed more to the victory than any other members of the allied military," The Independent reported. Special Forces soldiers used hand-held laser devices to target crucial radar stations for allied jets, The Independent reported.