Two Missing U.S. Soldiers Found Dead

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker.

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca (left) and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker. AP/Oregon National Guard hide caption

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A U.S. military official in Baghdad says coalition forces have recovered what they believe are the remains of two American soldiers who were missing in Iraq. Major Gen. William Caldwell told a news briefing in Baghdad that the bodies were found in the vicinity of Youssifiya, a town south of Baghdad where the soldiers went missing Friday.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. A U.S. military official in Baghdad says coalition forces there have recovered two bodies; they are believed to be the remains of two American soldiers who went missing in Iraq. Major General William Caldwell told a news briefing in Baghdad the bodies were found yesterday in a town south of Baghdad where the soldiers went missing on Friday. We're going now to NPR's Jamie Tarabay, who's covering the story in Baghdad.

And, Jamie, could you describe the scale of the search for these two men over the last several days.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

About 8,000 American forces, as well as Iraqi security forces, were involved in the effort to try and find the men from about 15 minutes after the attack took place on Friday night.

A quick reaction force was the first on the scene. They found one dead soldier, and the other two were missing. The U.S. forces used helicopters, airplanes, ground forces, a diving team, because the checkpoint where they were attacked was near a canal on the Euphrates River. And they went door to door in the vicinity, in the nearby areas, in the houses; and they spoke to locals and they tried to get as much information as they can to find these two men.

INSKEEP: And now we're told that their bodies have been located, which leaves us with many questions, some of which you may be able to answer today, some which you may not. Who took them? How were they treated? Were they tortured? What condition were they in when they were found? All those questions and more.

TARABAY: Exactly. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell spoke in his briefing today, and he said that would be inappropriate even to identify the soldiers - the bodies of the soldiers that were found. And he said that they will release more details later.

We are hearing reports from different news agencies quoting Iraqi military officials who say that the cause of death was barbaric. But there are no more details than that.

Right now, the two bodies are on their way back to the States, and Maj. Gen. Caldwell said that they'll be conducting DNA tests on both to confirm that they are, in fact, the two men who went missing on Friday night.

INSKEEP: And is it fair to say that the only thing unusual about this incident, from the perspective of life in Iraq, is that this time the people who were kidnapped were American soldiers?

TARABAY: Well, yeah. I guess when an American soldier goes missing or is taken captive, as has been suggested here, it's always significant. The American soldiers have done a lot to protect themselves. They rarely go out unaccompanied. That these three were out on their own, I think there's going to be some review of the procedures involved in how they were left on their own and so exposed to attack. But every day - you're right, people are kidnapped and people are killed every single day here.

INSKEEP: And you're in Baghdad, Jamie, where there has been an effort at a security crackdown in recent days. How is the security situation now?

TARABAY: There's still a lot of violence. There were at least three car bombs in Baghdad itself, the very center where the security plan is meant to be implemented. And we just heard a report of a neighborhood in Baghdad being struck by four mortar rounds. So it hasn't eased up as yet.

INSKEEP: Okay. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Jamie Tarabay, who's in Baghdad today. And, again, the news is that two American soldiers, who'd been missing, have been found dead.

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