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Thursday, November 6

Lynch book contains details of assault, medical records

By Bob Withers | The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

An authorized biography of former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch says she was sexually assaulted after her unit was ambushed in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

Lynch, then a 19-year-old private first class in the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, doesn't remember what happened to her from the moment her Humvee crashed into the rear of a stalled tractor-trailer about 7:20 a.m. March 23, until after the Iraqis delivered her to a military hospital ``only steps away'' from the ambush scene about three hours later, according to the book.

But the book, written by journalist Rick Bragg, says Lynch's medical records reveal what happened during the hours missing from the soldier's memory.

``Her right arm was shattered between her shoulder and her elbow, and the compound fracture shoved slivers of bone through muscles, nerves and skin, leaving her right hand all but useless,'' Bragg writes. ``Her spine was fractured in two places, causing nerve damage that left her unable to control her kidneys and bowels. Her right foot was crushed.

``Her left leg had broken into pieces above and below the knee, also a compound fracture, and splintered bone had made a mess of nerves and left her without feeling in that limb. The flesh along the hairline of her forehead was torn in a ragged, 4-inch line.''

Bragg says medical records also showed Lynch was the victim of a sexual assault. But the book says the records do not indicate whether the assault occurred before or after the other injuries.

The book doesn't say which hospital the medical records are from.

A copy of ``I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story'' was obtained by The Herald-Dispatch. It is being released Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

In an interview to be aired the same day with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Lynch says she does not remember an assault. ``Even just the thinking about that, that's too painful,'' she said, according excerpts of the interview released by ABC News Thursday.

In the television interview, Lynch tells Sawyer her rifle jammed, leaving her defenseless during the ambush.

``My weapon did jam and I did not shoot, not a round, nothing,'' she said. ``I don't look at myself as a hero. My heroes are Lori (Pfc. Lori Piestewa, who was killed), the soldiers that are over there, the soldiers that were in that car beside me, the ones that came and rescued me. I'm just a survivor.''

Sawyer will discuss the interview on "Good Morning America" on Friday along with Time magazine editor-at-large Nancy Gibbs, who also interviewed Lynch. Time will excerpt the book in its Nov. 10 issue.

In places, the book seems to contradict Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief's account of his role in tipping off U.S. Marines that Lynch was in Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah. According to Bragg, Lynch says she was never slapped, interrogated, threatened or tortured while at the hospital.

Al-Rehaief has described in his own book and interviews seeing such a scene.

``Jessi said she never met Rehaief and does not recall anyone telling her they were bringing help,'' Bragg writes. ``She dreamed it would happen, but it never did.''

But on the next page, Bragg writes that Lynch was grateful that help did arrive.

Al-Rehaief could not be reached for comment, but James Pruitt, an attorney with The Livingston Group in Washington that employs al-Rehaief, issued a statement on his behalf.

``Mohammed has not had a chance to read the book and does not feel comfortable commenting on anything in it,'' Pruitt said. ``However, he wishes to stress his deep admiration for Jessica Lynch and what she went through. If he had it to do all over again, he would do exactly the same thing and he wishes her good health in mind and spirit.''

In two pages of acknowledgements, the Lynch family thanks ``the Iraqi citizens who aided Jessi'' but does not mention al-Rehaief by name. Lynch used similar words during the carefully crafted remarks at her homecoming in Elizabeth, W.Va., on July 22.