(WASHINGTON) — The remains of Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie, the last American service member still missing in Iraq, have been positively identified.
Altaie was serving as an Army interpreter when he was kidnapped in October 2006, after he snuck off his base in Baghdad to visit his Iraqi wife.
Ever since then, the Iraqi-born soldier from Ann Arbor, Mich., has been listed as Missing-Captured by the Defense Department.
Army spokesman Troy Rolan said that on Saturday, Feb. 25, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner at Dover, Del., “used scientific methods on an unknown set of remains and positively identified them as those of missing-captured Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie.”
Army officials did not have further details about the circumstances surrounding his death or how his remains were discovered. One official said the remains had been found in Iraq earlier in the week.
McClatchy Newspapers first reported the identification of Altaie’s remains, citing family members who told the news service that a military casualty officer had knocked on the family’s home in Ann Arbor at 1 a.m. Sunday to personally convey the news. An Army official confirmed that account to ABC News.
Altaie’s brother, Hathal Altaie, told McClatchy, “We’ve been waiting for five years, suffering, not knowing if he’s alive or dead. This was not the news we wanted, of course, but it’s better than staying like that, without ever knowing what happened to him.”
At the time of Altaie’s capture, the U.S. military in Iraq conducted massive efforts to locate the missing soldier.
Relatives told McClatchy the Iraqi government had turned over his remains to the United States on Feb. 22, but the family was only notified after forensics tests at Dover confirmed his identify.
Altaie was presumed to have been kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents who months after his capture released a video showing he was alive, but little more was heard after that.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jessica Ivins, KSL.com
Holly Yan and Nadeem Muaddi, CNN
Lorenzo D'Agostino and Hilary Clarke, CNN