Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., left, and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston.
The new leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al Muhajer, claimed responsibility for the killings, dealing a setback to U.S. efforts to seize momentum against Al Qaeda in the wake of killing Muhajer’s predecessor, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Meanwhile, violence continued unabated in Iraq, with at least 18 people killed in attacks nationwide.
The U.S. 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.
An insurgent group claimed the new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq executed the men personally, but it offered no evidence. The U.S. military did not confirm whether the soldiers died from wounds suffered in an attack Friday or were kidnapped and later killed.
The discovery of the bodies dealt a new setback to U.S. 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.