BAGHDAD, Iraq - The US military recovered the bodies Tuesday of two missing
soldiers from an area it said was rigged with explosives. An Iraqi official said
the Americans were tortured and killed in a "barbaric" way.
insurgent group claimed the new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq executed the men
personally, but it offered no evidence. The US military did not confirm
whether the soldiers died from wounds suffered in an attack Friday or were
kidnapped and later killed.
U.S. Army pfc Thomas
Lowell Tucker, 25, is photographed in this undated Oregon Army National
Guard photograph. Iraqi Defense Ministry official Major General Abdul Aziz
Mohammed told Reuters June 20, 2006 that a joint U.S.-Iraqi force found
the bodies of Privates Tucker, and Kristian Menchaca, 23, near an
electricity plant in Yusufiya. [Reuters]
The discovery of the bodies dealt a new setback to US efforts to seize the
momentum against al-Qaida in Iraq after killing its leader, Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi, in a June 7 airstrike. Violence was unabated Tuesday, with at least
18 people killed in attacks nationwide, including a suicide bombing of a home
for the elderly in the southern city of Basra.
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.
Menchaca's cousin Sylvia Grice said the soldier visited relatives in Texas
last month but didn't talk much about the war.
"He wanted to go out and visit his friends," she said. "He wanted to eat a
hamburger. He didn't want to sit down and talk about what was going on. But he
was very proud of serving his country and he believed in what he was doing."
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.