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Context of 'January 31, 1991: Iraq Captures Female US POW'

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January 29-30, 1991: Iraq Attacks Saudi Target

Iraqi forces attack Kharfji, Saudi Arabia, near the Saudi-Iraq border. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] The next day, US and coalition forces engage the Iraqis in the first major ground conflict of the war. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]

Entity Tags: Iraq, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

January 31, 1991: Iraq Captures Female US POW

Melissa Rathbun-Nealy at a rally in her home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.Melissa Rathbun-Nealy at a rally in her home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. [Source: Grand Rapids Public Library]During the fighting in and around Kharfji (see January 29-30, 1991), Iraqi forces capture the first US female prisoner of war. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] The POW is later identified as Army Specialist Melissa Rathbun-Nealy, a driver with the 233rd Transportation Company. She and fellow driver Specialist David Lockett became lost and stuck in the sand while driving a heavy flatbed truck near the Iraq-Kuwait border; both are captured. [People, 2/18/1991] Both Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett will be released in March 1991, along with four other POWs. Interestingly, both soldiers are initially listed as “missing in action” instead of “prisoners of war”; the Defense Department will give no explanation for the decision to list them as MIA, though some believe it is to escape potential media embarrassment at having a female soldier captured by the enemy. Both Rathbun-Nealy and Lockett will report that their captivity was largely uneventful, and they were well treated. [POW Network, 11/8/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, David Lockett, Melissa Rathbun-Nealy

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Steve Schneider, David Koresh’s top aide inside the besieged Branch Davidian compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993), suggests that federal agents might burn the compound down to destroy evidence. Both Koresh and Schneider are “highly agitated and upset,” according to a later Justice Department report, for most of the day. FBI negotiators privately say that the negotiations are at an impasse, and acknowledge their frustration at dealing with Koresh. Koresh offers to send out one of his followers, Melissa Morrison, if in turn he is allowed to talk to FBI informant Robert Rodriguez. The FBI refuses, and Koresh does not allow Morrison to leave the compound. [Moore, 1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995]

Entity Tags: Steve Schneider, Branch Davidians, David Koresh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Melissa Morrison, Robert Rodriguez

Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis

The Denver Post reports that three US Army soldiers from a military intelligence battalion have been fined “at least five hundred dollars and demoted in rank” after an investigation into an incident involving the assault of a female Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. [New Yorker, 5/17/2004]

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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