Missing US soldiers ‘tortured, killed’ in Iraq

Missing US soldiers 'tortured, killed' in Iraq

Two US soldiers who went missing after an attack on their checkpoint have been found dead and were tortured before being killed, an Iraqi defence official says.

Iraqi Defence Ministry official Major General Abdul Aziz Mohammed told Reuters the bodies of Privates Thomas Lowell Tucker, 25, and Kristian Menchaca, 23, were found by a joint US-Iraqi force on Monday near an electricity plant in Yusufiya, the area in which they were abducted on Friday.

He said the bodies showed signs of "barbaric torture".

The US military has confirmed two bodies were found in the vicinity of Yusufiya.

"Coalition forces have recovered what we believe are the remains of the soldiers," Major General William Caldwell told a news conference.

He declined to comment on the statement that the two privates were tortured before they died. But they had been killed, Gen Caldwell said.

The corpses will be taken to the United States for DNA testing to confirm their identities and establish how the men died.

Asked to confirm that the two had been taken prisoner before dying, he said the men had not reached the place where their bodies were found by their own efforts. They were found close to an electricity plant, he said.

Ken MacKenzie, Pvt Menchaca's uncle, told NBC television he had only just heard the news reports and had not had confirmation. He said: "The news is going to be heartbreaking to my family."

The US military launched an intensive hunt for the soldiers involving aircraft and thousands of troops after vowing not to leave them "out there".

The reported discovery came as more bomb blasts shook Baghdad, killing nine people despite a security clampdown. The US military also said troops hunting insurgents linked to al Qaeda had killed 15 gunmen in raids north of the capital.

The Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella body of insurgent groups led by al Qaeda, claimed in an Internet posting on Monday to have abducted the two soldiers. However, it provided no video nor documentary evidence that it was holding them and some US officials cast doubt on the statement.

The two went missing at dusk on Friday after an ambush at a checkpoint in Yusufiya, a town in an area south of Baghdad some Iraqis call the "Triangle of Death", which is an al Qaeda stronghold. Another soldier was killed in the attack.

Their deaths dealt a blow to the US military after it killed the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in an air strike on a "safe house" near Baquba north of Baghdad.

US forces hunting insurgents linked to a suspected senior Al Qaeda member launched simultaneous pre-dawn raids near Baquba on Tuesday, the US military said.


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