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4/14/03 - ACCOUNTING FOR GULF WAR POW/MIAS - 2003-04-14

Among the Americans who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and are still unaccounted for is U.S. Navy Captain Michael Scott Speicher.

Speicher was the pilot of an F-18 Navy jet shot down over Iraq on January 17th, 1991. Iraqi authorities provided a small amount of human remains they claimed to be those of Speicher. U.S. experts determined this to be a lie. Iraq later claimed that his body was devoured by animals and no remains were found.

At first, it was believed that Speicher had been killed in action. But later, evidence found at the crash site and reports from Iraqi defectors and foreign intelligence services indicated that Speicher had survived the crash and was a prisoner of war in Iraq.

In October 2002, the U.S. classified Speicher as "captured" by Iraq. Captain Speicher would not be the first prisoner Iraq held in violation of the laws of war. It was not until April 1998 that Iraq agreed to release prisoners taken in the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq War. Some sixty-thousand Iranian prisoners of war languished in captivity for a decade or more before being exchanged.

The United States will give refugee status to any qualified person and his or her parents, spouse, and children from Iraq or the greater Middle East region who personally delivers into the custody of the United States government a living American listed as a prisoner of war or missing in action from the Persian Gulf War or the current conflict. Anyone with information concerning American prisoners of war or missing in action should contact U.S. authorities.