Details are surfacing that give insight into what happened to Pfc. Jessica Lynch and her comrades when their convoy made a wrong turn that resulted in the single greatest loss of American soldiers in the Iraq war. The U.S. Army last week released a long-awaited report on the 507th Maintenance Company, which suffered 11 killed and six taken prisoner on March 23 in An Nasiriya, Iraq. The unit's captain made a "single navigational error," the report says. Deep inside enemy territory, he retraced his route but was ambushed. When the 507th tried to fight off the attackers, many of its weapons jammed because of poor maintenance in the sandy conditions.
But the report avoids the details of the plight of Private Lynch, who's still undergoing rehabilitation after suffering multiple broken bones and spinal and head injuries. She's said she has no recollection of the event. The report seems to suggest Lynch was injured after her Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed into a truck in the convoy. The driver of the Humvee, Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, died of injuries she sustained, and two other occupants were killed under circumstances still under investigation, the report says. NEWSWEEK has learned, however, that U.S. military intelligence officers believe Lynch's injuries were inflicted after she and other survivors surrendered. "This poor girl," said one Special Forces captain involved in her rescue. He's among three military intelligence sources who say she was standing when she surrendered, and had minor injuries at most. That was confirmed by Mehdi Kafaji, the Iraqi orthopedic surgeon who was in charge of her treatment at the hospital in An Nasiriya. "She had blunt-force trauma not consistent with what you'd expect from a car accident," Kafaji says. He adds that there was no sign of bullet wounds on her body, and her injuries appeared to have been inflicted by a severe beating, probably with numerous rifle butts. Her Fedayeen captors then took her to An Nasiriya's Saddam General Hospital. She told doctors she had not been sexually assaulted.
Lynch's dramatic rescue by American commandos on April 1, videotaped by a military camera crew, was criticized by hospital officials as unnecessary grandstanding, since the Iraqi intelligence agents guarding her had all fled two days earlier. Indeed, there was no armed resistance to her rescue. But two military intelligence officers involved in planning her rescue told NEWSWEEK they'd learned from "multiple sources" that Iraqi officials were pressuring doctors to amputate her leg so she could more easily be transported to Baghdad. Her injuries were so severe, it still would have been a risky trip. "Their attitude was, if she dies, she dies," says one intelligence officer. "That's when we decided, let's bring in the door kickers."