US: Up to 12 soldiers missing

On Sunday, American forces continued their rapid push to the Iraqi capital Baghdad as the costs of the war - human and financial - came into sharper view.

On the battlefield, the race to Baghdad continued with one unit, the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade covering 230 miles in 40 hours to take positions about 100 miles from Baghdad. That puts them less than a day's travel in the 70 tanks and 60 Bradley fighting vehicles the unit employs to cross the dessert.

The battalion moved forward and captured ground near the city of Najaf with little resistance early Sunday. Najaf is on the western bank of the Euphrates River, along one of the main highways leading to Baghdad.

"We're on course and we're making good progress ... this is just the beginning of a tough fight," President Bush told reporters on the White House South Lawn Sunday afternoon after returning from Camp David. The president said that "Saddam Hussein is losing control of his country."

The war's human cost was shown in various ways. A US Patriot missile shot down a Royal Air Force plane, killing the two fliers on board. It was the third aerial accident involving British personnel since the war began.

Iraqi officials claimed to have shot down five allied planes, four in Baghdad and one in Basra since the war started. Scores of security officers in Baghdad were seen searching the banks of the Tigris River, apparently looking for a pilot who may have bailed out of a downed plane.

The Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera aired footage Sunday of interviews with what the station identified as captured American prisoners, and also showed bodies in uniform in an Iraqi morgue that it said were Americans. The station said the prisoners were captured around Nasiriya, a major crossing point over the Euphrates River. The footage came from Iraqi television.

Four bodies could be seen lying on the floor of the room. At least five prisoners, speaking American-accented English, were interviewed. Two were bandaged.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday morning on "Meet the Press" that "there has been a report of an aircraft missing." He added that "there are, we believe, there are some American soldiers missing." He said there also could be captured journalists.

President Bush said he expected that any American military personnel taken prisioner would be treated "humanely, just like we'll treat any Iraqi prisoners." The President said, "I pray for God's comfort and God's healing powers" on behalf of those injured or killed in what he termed "an effort to make the world peaceful and more free."

Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, said 77 civilians were killed in Basra where allied forces captured the airport and a key bridge.

One confirmed American death Sunday came at the 101st Airborne Division command center in Kuwait when a US soldier allegedly rolled grenades into three of his unit's tents, killing one and wounding 13.

The civilian cost of covering the war was also in evidence. Britain's ITN television news correspondent Terry Lloyd is believed to be dead after he and his crew came under fire en route to Basra in southern Iraq.

Secretary Rumsfeld warned that while the outcome of the war "is clear," nevertheless "there have to be tough days ahead." When asked about the length of the war and the the number of casualties the US would suffer he said, "How long is not knowable, how many casualties is not knowable."

The costs of funding the massive military campaign are expected to move into sharper focus on Monday. The Washington Post reported that President Bush will tell Congressional leaders that the war in Iraq will cost $80 billion. Of that amount, the paper reported in its Sunday editions, $60 billion would go for combat and the first months of reconstruction. The remainder would be devoted to foreign aid, homeland security, and humanitarian relief. Until now, the Bush administration has refused to put a public price tag on the war.

Efforts to end the war continue. On the diplomatic front, Arab foreign ministers meet Monday in Cairo, seeking ways to halt the fighting. The diplomats are expected to look for ways to bridge Arab divisions and forge a unified antiwar position. The meeting at the Arab League headquarters will also try to convince restive Arab populations their governments are doing their best to stop the four-day old war, which has provoked sometimes violent demonstrations across the Arab world.

There were antiwar demonstrations in a variety of US cities on Saturday including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Ninety people were arrested in New York and about 80 were arrested in Los Angeles.

In military action Sunday, the US Army took Nasiriyah, a major crossing point over the Euphrates northwest of Basra, Central Command said. Near the Persian Gulf, Marines seized an Iraqi naval base Sunday morning at Az Zubayr. The Associated Press reported that Marines found half-eaten bowls of rice and other still-warm food in the command center. Coalition troops were still trying to mop up resistance at the main Gulf port of Umm Qasr so it could be used for humanitarian shipments. They engaged in street-to-street battles against guerrillas, including paramilitary fighters of the Baath party. Near Basra in the south, Marines saw hundreds of Iraqi men - apparently soldiers who had taken off their uniforms - walking along a highway with bundles on their backs past burned-out Iraqi tanks. Allied forces have captured Basra's airport and a key bridge. But commanders say they are in no rush to storm the city, hoping instead that Iraqi defenders decide to give up.

Material from wire service reports was used for this story.

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