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Al-Qaida-linked group posts video of U.S. soldiers' bodies dragged behind truck

Sunday, September 24, 2006

By OMAR SINAN

The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt -- An al-Qaida-linked group posted a Web video Saturday purporting to show the bodies of two American soldiers being dragged behind a truck, then set on fire in apparent retaliation for the alleged rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman by U.S. troops from the same unit.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council -- an umbrella organization of insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq -- posted a previous video in June showing the soldiers' mutilated bodies, and claiming it killed them. It was not clear whether Saturday's video was a continuation of that footage, or why it was released.

The new footage came hours after the posting of another al-Qaida video, an apparent rerelease of a tape showing the execution of a Turkish hostage -- by the man purported to be the new leader of Al-Qaida in Iraq.

The images would be the first of Abu Ayyub al-Masri to be released since the group announced that he had succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq on June 7.

Both videos appeared just as Sunni Arabs in Iraq began Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. U.S. officials have warned that attacks could intensify during Ramadan.

It was impossible to identify the bodies in the second video, but it was believed to show Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, who went missing after being attacked by insurgents on June 16 at a checkpoint south of Baghdad. Their remains were found three days later, and the U.S. military said they had been mutilated.

The video showed masked men dragging the corpses and later setting them on fire. Below the graphic footage is a subtitle: "The two soldiers belong to the same brigade of the soldier who raped our sister in Mahmoudiya."

The U.S military has charged four soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division -- Spc. James P. Barker, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard -- in the March 12 alleged rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe is accused of failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

A fifth suspect, Pfc. Steven D. Green, was discharged from the army because of a "personality disorder" before the allegations became known. He has pleaded not guilty to rape and murder charges and is being held in a civilian court in the United States.

Mahmoudiya is an extremely violent region in Iraq in an area known as the "triangle of death" for the numerous attacks by insurgents.

The two slain soldiers also were from the 101st Airborne Division.

The video of the Turkish hostage first appeared on Aug. 2, 2004. It shows what has since then become an iconic scene of violence in Iraq -- three masked men standing behind a hostage seated on the ground.

The militant in the middle, identified in the latest Web posting as al-Masri, reads a statement in Arabic, and then the hostage, Murad Yucer from Ankara, reads a statement in Turkish. After Yucer finishes, al-Masri shoots him three times in the head.

The scarves make it impossible to identify the three militants. However, a statement posted alongside the video says the execution was performed by Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, al-Masri's militant name.

Al-Masri, a Sunni Muslim, has been relatively silent since taking over control of al-Qaida in Iraq -- a sharp contrast with al-Zarqawi, who frequently issued audiotapes and even a videotape that showed his face a few weeks before he was killed.


Associated Press Writer Maggie Michael contributed to this story from Cairo.


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