After an intense search that involved more than 8,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops, the bodies of two U.S. soldiers believed to have been kidnapped by insurgents were found on Monday, according to CNN.
On Friday, Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Thomas L. Tucker, 25, were attacked at a checkpoint near Yusufiya, south of Baghdad. An insurgent group linked to al Qaeda in Iraq claimed it had abducted the privates in an Internet posting that could not be verified. At press time, the military did not confirm the identities of the bodies, but sources told CNN they believed that they were Menchaca and Tucker. U.S. Major General William Caldwell told The Associated Press the remains were believed to be those of the privates.
The sources also said the bodies of the men had suffered severe trauma and been desecrated to the point that visual identification was not possible. DNA testing was under way to verify their identities.
The bodies were discovered Monday night near the point where the men were abducted after a tip from Iraqi civilians. But it took troops 12 hours to retrieve them because the bodies were booby-trapped with explosives, and homemade bombs were also lined up alongside the road leading to the corpses in an apparent attempt to complicate recovery efforts.
The soldiers' families have been notified and the bodies are being flown to the U.S. for the DNA test, according to CNN.
A group calling itself the Mujahedeen Shura Council, which has links to al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the murders on a Web site on Tuesday (June 20), saying the soldiers were "slaughtered" in accordance with God's will.
"We announce the good news to our Islamic nation that we executed God's will and slaughtered the two crusader animals we had in captivity," read the claim, CNN reported. The claim could not be independently verified. The group had earlier vowed to get revenge for the June 7 killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq (see "Autopsy Finds Al-Zarqawi Died Of Internal Injuries 52 Minutes After Bombing").
Despite the presence of 130,000 troops and daily clashes with insurgents, kidnappings of U.S. service members have been rare since the start of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. To date, the only other soldier captured was Sergeant Keith "Matt" Maupin, who was taken on April 9, 2004, after insurgents ambushed his fuel convoy. Two months later, a tape on Al-Jazeera television purported to show a captive U.S. soldier shot, but the Army ruled that the video was inconclusive.
Maupin's family in Batavia, Ohio — a city still strewn with yellow ribbons of support two years later — has continued to hold out hope for his return though there hasn't been any new information about his whereabouts for several months, according to ABC News.
More Iraq war news:
- On Monday, the military charged three 101st Airborne Division soldiers in connection with the May 9 deaths of three detainees near the Tharthar Canal north of Baghdad. According to Defense Department officials, the soldiers allegedly shot the three unidentified men shortly after they were taken into U.S. custody. Corey R. Clagett, William B. Hunsaker and Raymond L. Girouard were charged Sunday with offenses including premeditated murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, communicating a threat and obstructing justice. The soldiers claimed the men were attempting to flee and allegedly threatened another soldier during the investigation into the incident.
[This story was originally published at 8:37 am E.T. on 06.20.2006]