Remains of U.S. Pilot Missing 18 Years in Iraq Found

Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher positively ID'd

The remains of a U.S. pilot who went missing after he was shot down in Iraq during the first Gulf War have been identified -- putting ot rest a nearly two decade-old mystery of what happened to the married father of two.

Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher's disapperance on the first night of the 1991 war mystified investigators who couldn't find his remains after his his F-18 jet was shot down over a remote desert in western Anbar province.

It was unclear what happened to Speicher, of Jacksonville, Fla., until a tip from an Iraqi man led Marines to two men who said their missing shipmate was buried in the desert.

"One of these Iraqi citizens stated that they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried," the Pentagon said in a statement.

Bones and skeletal fragments were recovered from the site. The 33-year old was identified through a jawbone found at the site and dental records, an official said.

"The family's proud of the way the Defense Department continued on with our request," Speicher's family spokeswoman, Cindy Laquidara, said. "We will be brining him home." 

The Pentagon initially declared Speicher killed, but uncertainty — and the lack of remains — led officials over the years to change his official status a number of times to "missing in action" and later "missing-captured."

After years, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq finally gave investigators the chance to search inside Iraq. And it led to a number of leads, including what some believed were the initials "MSS" scratched into the wall of an Iraqi prison.

The search also led investigators to excavate a potential grave site in Baghdad in 2005, track down Iraqis said to have information about Speicher and make numerous other inquiries in what officials say has been an exhaustive search.

Officials said Sunday that they got new information from an Iraqi citizen in early July, leading Marines stationed in Anbar province to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Speicher's jet.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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