A boastful propaganda video released yesterday by an Al Qaeda-linked group in Iraq asserted that missing Army Specialist Alex R. Jimenez of Lawrence and another soldier have been killed in captivity.
The video displays personal items purportedly taken from the soldiers and warns that the soldiers' bodies will never be found: "As you refused to deliver the bodies of our killed people, we will not deliver the bodies of your dead, and their end will be beneath the ground, Allah willing," says an unidentified narrator.
But the US Defense Department cautioned that there was no hard evidence the men were dead and vowed to continue a massive search for the soldiers, missing since an ambush May 12.
In Lawrence, where friends and family of Jimenez endured an agonizing day as news of the video spread, many said they would not give up hope that the 25-year-old soldier will return home safe.
"Not everything is credible," said Francisco Urena, director of veterans services in Lawrence. "We still have to keep hope."
Lawrence residents have held numerous prayer vigils for Jimenez over the last three weeks and have decorated buildings across the city with yellow ribbons to show support.
The abduction of the Dominican-born soldier has particularly upset the city's sizable Latino community.
Wendy Luzon, a friend of the family, said she spoke yesterday to Jimenez's father, Ramon "Andy" Jimenez, about the video. He and the rest of the family remain hopeful, she said.
Ramon Jimenez is in Fort Drum, N.Y., home base to the 10th Mountain Division, Jimenez's unit. Maria Duran, his mother, lives in Queens, N.Y.
"There's nothing official," said Luzon. "[We're] just hoping for something good to happen."
The video was posted on the website of a radical Islamist group, according to the Washington-based SITE Institute, which tracks terrorist propaganda and yesterday released a translation and analysis of the video.
The video takes credit for the abduction of the three soldiers and shows a "field commander" in the insurgent group explaining how the ambush was conducted, according to the SITE Institute. "The Americans sent 4,000 soldiers looking for them," intones the video's narrator in Arabic. "They were alive and then dead."
At the end of the 10-minute clip, the identification cards of the two missing soldiers -- Jimenez and Private Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich. -- are shown beneath a headline reading, "Bush is the reason of the loss of your POWs." Visa and Mastercard credit cards, $50 bills, and a pistol are also shown and identified as the soldiers' personal effects.
The body of the third soldier kidnapped in the May 12 ambush, Private Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif., was found May 23 in the Euphrates River outside Baghdad and was later identified by the military.
The video was posted on the website run by al-Furqan Foundation for Media Production, the media wing of an umbrella insurgent group called the Islamic State in Iraq, which includes Al Qaeda and Sunni radicals, according to the SITE Institute. Numerous videos of US soldiers under attack, broadcasts from Al Qaeda leaders, and other Islamic propaganda have been posted to the site since the Iraq war started.
Josh Devon, a senior analyst and cofounder of the SITE Institute, said that, in general, such insurgent videos had a mixed record on accuracy.
"Usually with hostages, they will show a video of the captives," Devon said. "They don't have that in this case."
He said the soldiers' military identification cards shown on the video appear genuine, but do not prove the soldiers were killed. But he added that the insurgent group would probably not release a video filled with boasts unless they were confident the soldiers were dead.
"They wouldn't want to have something they put out proven totally wrong," Devon said in a telephone interview. "They have to feel confident that they are not going to be exposed."
Pentagon officials said the search for Jimenez and Fouty will continue.
"We are further analyzing the video; however, it doesn't appear to contain any definitive evidence indicating the status of our missing soldiers," said Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner, spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq. "We continue to search and hope that our two missing soldiers will be found alive and in good health."
Bergner also denounced the release of the video. "We condemn the tactics used by these terrorists and are using all means available to pursue those responsible," he said in a statement.
US Representative Martin T. Meehan, who represents Lawrence, called the video shocking and troubling.
"While the video claims that both men have been killed, I continue to hold out hope for their safe return," Meehan said in a statement.
The three soldiers vanished after their unit was ambushed about 20 miles outside Baghdad. The search for the men has drawn worldwide attention, even as US troops continue to mass in and around Baghdad as part of the Bush administration's troop-expansion plan.
Gordon Dibler, Fouty's stepfather, told the Associated Press that he was holding out hope for the soldiers' safe return: "We're praying, and so far, we don't know for certain that they aren't alive."
Jimenez's friends and family in Lawrence had a similar attitude.
"Until we have official confirmation, we'll continue to keep our hopes for better news," said state Representative William Lantigua, a Lawrence Democrat. "His body has not been found anywhere. . . . I have a feeling that the statement on the video is not accurate."
Russell Contreras of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Lawrence. Raja Mishra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.