Soldier’s family clings to hope

CARSON CITY — The parents of Army Sgt. Anthony J. Schober thanked Americans for their prayers and clung to hope Wednesday that their son is alive after a bloody ambush near Baghdad over the weekend that left four U.S. soldiers dead and three missing.

With somber faces, Carson City residents Edward and Virginia Schober sat motionless in the Nevada National Guard Armory while Edward Schober’s brother, Bob, read a brief statement of gratitude to "the families and friends of the nation for their prayers and support."

"We are proud of all the armed forces and their families and the sacrifices they are making for the nation," Bob Schober said.

Neither Edward nor Virginia Schober made any comments. They appeared distraught while the statement was read. Then, Edward Schober escorted his wife, who walked with a limp, out of the room.

In the Northern California community of Rohnert Park, Anthony Schober’s grandfather, Robert Asper, said his family is clinging to hope that his grandson will be found alive.

"We’re in shock and grief and hoping he can get out," Asper said. "But al-Qaida are just barbarians, and they don’t go by any rules of war. They don’t give people back."

He said he believes there’s "a slim chance" his 23-year-old grandson is alive and is "surprised we haven’t seen them (missing soldiers) on TV pleading for their lives."

The Rev. Newton Kerney, pastor of Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Rohnert Park where Asper and his wife, Leona, have been long-time members, said the family is struggling to cope with the mental trauma.

"There is a certain sense of numbness, a great sense of apprehension and a feeling of helplessness," Kerney said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

"They want to do what any of us would want to do, and that is bring him home to all the people who love him," he said.

He noted that Anthony Schober lived in Rohnert Park when he was a youngster.

Schober later moved to Nevada and attended Douglas High School in Minden from 1999 to 2001.

He then transferred to Carson High School.

The Department of Defense lists his residence as Reno.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a search involving 4,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 Iraqis continued for the three soldiers who Army commanders fear were abducted during the pre-dawn attack on their Humvees by militants using automatic weapons fire and explosives. The attack took place 20 miles south of Baghdad.

A statement Wednesday by multinational military officials at Camp Victory, near Baghdad International Airport, said Iraqi special operations forces and coalition troops detained 16 people after checking out tips during the search for the soldiers.

The U.S. military has distributed 50,000 leaflets offering rewards of up to $200,000 for information leading to the soldiers’ return.

An insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The al-Qaida front group posted a statement on a Web site saying it has the soldiers "in our hands. If you want their safety, do not look for them," the message said.

The chief spokesman for the coalition forces in Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, has acknowledged that the group probably captured the soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. troops south of Baghdad, said: "We’ve done so much as to drain canals after a report that the bodies were in a canal.

"So we’re leaving no stone unturned."

He said he was optimistic that the soldiers would be found alive.

"We’re pursuing all intelligence," Lynch said. "Some of those leads tell us that the soldiers have been taken out of the area, but the majority tell us that they’re still in the area."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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