| CLOSE SHAVE: Jessica Lynch grimaces inside a helicopter after being rescued by US special forces. (left) An earlier family photograph of Lynch. (Reuters)
Near An Nasiriyah, Iraq, April 2 (Reuters): US forces rescued a female army soldier held captive for 10 days and recovered the bodies of at least two American soldiers in a midnight raid on an Iraqi hospital, officials said today.
The rescued soldier, private first class Jessica Lynch, 19, from Palestine, West Virginia, had been with a maintenance convoy ambushed by Iraqi forces on March 23. She was rescued from a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of An Nasiriyah.
A grainy film clip shown during the daily briefing at US military headquarters in Qatar showed the injured Lynch being taken by stretcher to a Blackhawk helicopter.
“At this point she is safe. She is retrieved,” said Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, who described a midnight special operations rescue mission involving US Army Rangers, air force and combat patrols. “Some brave souls put their lives on the line.”
Captain Jay La Rossa, spokesman for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said near An Nasiriyah that Lynch had broken her legs and an arm, but was stable and in good condition.
La Rossa said special forces involved in the rescue also found the bodies of two US soldiers and eight Iraqis. He said the identities of the Americans were not known but they were thought to be among those ambushed with Lynch’s group.
Brooks said the US forces also found the remains of 11 people, two in a morgue and the others in a grave outside the hospital. He said forensic investigation was under way to determine the identities. “Coalition forces were escorted to those locations by someone taken into custody during the assault,” Brooks said.
Military sources said the Marines staged a decoy attack to allow special forces to rescue Lynch from the hospital in An Nasiriyah, where the US-led forces have faced stiff resistance from Iraqi fighters.
“US Marines sent a large force led by tanks and armoured personnel carriers to hit targets in the centre of the city and to seize a key bridge over the Euphrates while the hospital raid was under way,” a military source said.
The source said no one was injured among the US Marines, who met little or no resistance from the Iraqi forces.
Lynch was one of 15 soldiers listed as missing, captured or killed when a 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company convoy made a wrong turn and came under attack from Iraqi tanks and fighters.