Dramatic attack led to abduction of U.S. soldiers, witnesses say

U.S. troops backed by helicopters fanned out across the 'Triangle of Death' south of Baghdad searching for two missing American servicemen, but the U.S. military offered no new information on Sunday.

Iraqi insurgents decoyed U.S. military vehicles from a checkpoint and then attacked a remaining one, killing the driver and abducting two soldiers, witnesses said as the search continued for the missing men on Sunday.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said he could not confirm reports that the soldiers had been abducted when insurgents attacked a checkpointclose to the town of Yusufiya, about 20 kilometres south of Baghdad, at dusk on Friday.

Snow would only say that the men were missing and that U.S. troops were searching for them on a second straight day.

Butlocal residents said theysaw masked militants snatch the soldiers from a checkpoint along a canal near the Euphrates Riverand whisk them away in cars, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

U.S. officials have not revealed any identities.

The attack took place in a Sunni-dominated region south of the capital that is known as the Triangle of Death because militants often ambush U.S. soldiers and Iraqi troops there.

Humvee isolated in the attack

As the checkpoint came under fire, Americans in two Humvees began pursuing the insurgents, who had retreated into nearby groves — possibly to lure U.S. soldiers away from the crossing, the New York Timesreported.

Witnesses said a group of seven or eight insurgents then swarmed the Humvee that was still at the checkpoint, killing the driver.

At least one of the attackers was armed with a machine-gun and two carried rocket-propelled grenades, the newspaper said.

U.S. troops backed by helicoptersfanned out across the region but had no news to report on Sunday.

U.S. Maj.-Gen. William Caldwell,a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq,said on Saturday that a dive team would be searching the canal.

In addition, American soldiers went door to door in the area, witnesses said.