About 600 US soldiers launched an air assault south of Baghdad on Friday, targeting militants believed to be involved in the May kidnapping of three American soldiers, the military said. The raids took place around 4 a.m. in the villages of Owesap and Betra, about 20 kilometers south of the Iraqi capital. "These are areas where we believe al-Qaida was staging attacks, and we also believe they have ties to the May 12th attack," said Maj. Alayne Conway, spokeswoman for the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Three US soldiers were kidnapped after their patrol was ambushed May 12 near Mahmudiyah, also south of Baghdad. Four other Americans and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in the attack, and an al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility. Two soldiers remain missing, and the body of the third was found in the Euphrates River nearly two weeks later.