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American Forces Press Service

Agencies Work Together to Find Hostages in Iraq

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2004 -- Coalition officials said today the whereabouts of as many as 40 hostages in Iraq from 12 countries are unknown.

Some countries are urging their citizens not to go to Iraq or to leave the country, after several aid workers, contractors and coalition soldiers have gone missing.

Senior coalition spokesman Dan Senor confirmed at a Baghdad news conference that the FBI is working with coalition and Iraqi security forces to seek out the "hostages and their takers," and that a number of other law enforcement agencies from the international community are involved with the investigation. He said the coalition will not negotiate with terrorists and kidnappers. "It is in everybody's interest that the hostages are released as expeditiously as possible," he added.

Meanwhile, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters that every country has to make a determination regarding security when it comes to ongoing operations in Iraq. Kimmitt is deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7.

"We still have some tough fighting ahead of us," he said. "We will continue to work closely with our Iraqi security forces to bring safety and security to this country. But that has got to be a sovereign decision of the nation and an individual decision made by each person. We can't declare at this point that it is as safe as we want it to be, but can declare that we will continue to work to reduce the amount of violence in this country."

Kimmitt said more progress needs to be made to be made with regard to the Iraqi army, police and security forces, many of whom reportedly fled or refused to participate during recent fighting against insurgents. But he added that many Iraqi security forces have performed admirably. "Before we suggest that all the forces just walked away from the fight, in fact there had been numerous forces that, when mustered, went to where they needed to be and performed brilliantly," he said.

Kimmitt said that Iraqi police in many towns have come back to man their stations.

"In truth, there were a number of troops, there were a number of police, that didn't stand up when their country called," he said. "We are going to take a hard look at where we are on the development of the Iraqi security forces, and we're going to redouble our efforts so that our eventual goal, which is an Iraqi security apparatus capable of defending itself and public security, is met," he said.

He said it will take time to train and equip the Iraqi security forces to meet that goal, and that's why coalition forces will continue to work alongside Iraqi security forces after the new Iraqi government assumes sovereignty June 30.

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