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Final MiA mission fails to find remains

Final MiA mission fails to find remains

US servicemen have completed the final field mission to search for comrades who

went missing in Cambodia during the Vietnam war. The remains of only three

soldiers have been positively identified out of 81 searched for, with a further

two cases being tested at the Central Identification Laboratory in

Hawaii.

The US operation to search eight aircraft crash sites, which

began in February and involved a team of 50 men and helicopters, is expected to

be the last. The office handling MiA inquiries at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh

is to close later in the year.

Teams could return if families of missing

soldiers or authorities in the US request re-investigations, or if new facts

emerge, said Major Tony Lowe, Commander of Detachment 4 of the Joint Task Force,

Full Accounting.

"It's been very satisfying, and we've suffered no

serious injuries," said Major Lowe.

"We needed a great deal of planning,

coordination and speed, almost as if we were on a combat mission."

The

last MiA investigation in Cambodia, which began in February in Takeo, Siem Reap,

Kompong Thom and Kompong Cham, unearthed wreckage in the latter two provinces

and some "unidentifiable" remains.

"Most of the bones found are too

small to be used for DNA testing," explained Lowe, who said the final

investigation was the most dangerous as Khmer Rouge gunfire could often be

heard.

The team, split into squads of 16 men, guarded by 250 Cambodian

soldiers, often had to leave sites they were investigating, when it was felt the

guerrillas were getting too close.

Spread over some of the country's

densest forests, many remains have probably decomposed, been moved or washed

away by rain, or damaged by animals, said Lowe.

Often the "remains"

proved to be animal bones or those of non-Americans and several graves, reported

to be of American soldiers, turned out to be dead ends.

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