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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 02:39 GMT 03:39 UK
Missing US pilot's status changed
F-18 jet on board a US navy ship
Speicher's F-18 jet was shot down over Iraq

The US Navy has changed the status of an American pilot shot down in the 1991 Gulf War who was at one stage listed as killed in action.

The Navy says he is now being described as "missing/captured," to reflect the fact that it believes he was seized by the Iraqis after his plane went down.

Michael Speicher
Baghdad insists it is not holding the pilot
The US Navy pilot, Lieutenant Commander Michael Speicher, was shot down on the first night of the Gulf War in 1991.

His body has never been recovered and his family and campaigners have kept his case alive.

This is not the first time his status has been changed. He was listed first as missing, then killed in action.

Then in an unprecedented step, the Navy last year changed this back to missing. All the information gathered, it said, had increased uncertainty about the pilot's fate.

Propaganda tool

President George W Bush has mentioned him in various speeches and remarks as he has tried to build his case against Iraq.

Baghdad insists it is not holding him, but now the Navy has changed his status again to "missing/captured."

It says it has no evidence he is dead, but none of the information it has proves he is alive either.

However, the civilian head of the US Navy, the Navy Secretary, Douglas England, says he is personally convinced that the Iraqis seized the pilot after his plane went down and know what happened to him.

Uncertainty about his fate is turning into one more charge for Washington to lay at Baghdad's door.

And one of the twists in this particular mystery is that since he was reclassified as "missing," Lieutenant Commander Speicher has been qualified for the same promotions as his contemporaries and is now technically listed as a Captain.


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12 Jan 01 | Americas
12 Jul 02 | Middle East
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