Archive for Wednesday, June 21, 2006

U.S. soldiers found dead; militants claim new leader killed them

June 21, 2006


— The U.S. military recovered the bodies Tuesday of two missing soldiers from an area it said was rigged with explosives.

Coalition forces spotted the American soldiers' bodies late Monday, three days after the men disappeared following an attack on their checkpoint south of the capital, the military said. But troops delayed retrieving the remains until an explosives team cleared the area after an Iraqi civilian warned them to be alert for explosive devices.

"Coalition forces had to carefully maneuver their way through numerous improvised explosive devices leading up to and around the site," the military said in a statement. "Insurgents attempting to inflict additional casualties had placed IEDs around the bodies."

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the bodies were found together in the vicinity of an electrical plant, which would be just a few miles from where the initial attack took place near the town of Youssifiyah in the volatile Sunni Triangle south of Baghdad.

Caldwell said the remains were believed to be those of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. The bodies will be flown from Kuwait to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for positive identification through autopsies and DNA testing.

The director of the Iraqi Defense Ministry's operation room, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed, said the bodies showed signs of having been tortured. "With great regret, they were killed in a barbaric way," he said.

The two soldiers disappeared after an insurgent attack at a checkpoint by a Euphrates River canal, 12 miles south of Baghdad. Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was killed in the attack. The three men were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of five insurgent groups led by al-Qaida in Iraq, posted an Internet statement Monday claiming it was holding the American soldiers captive. On Tuesday, after Iraqi officials disclosed that the bodies were found, the Shura Council posted another Web statement, saying al-Zarqawi's successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, had "slaughtered" the soldiers. The language in the statement, which could not be authenticated, suggested the group was saying the men were beheaded.


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