Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Al-Qaeda group posts Web video of dead US soldiers


An al-Qaeda-linked group posted a Web video purporting to show the bodies of two US soldiers being dragged behind a truck and then set on fire in apparent retaliation for the alleged rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman by US troops from the same unit.

The Mujahidin Shura Council -- an umbrella organization of insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq -- posted a previous video in June that showed the soldiers' mutilated bodies, claiming it had 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-Qaeda 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-Qaeda 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 US airstrike in Iraq on June 7.

Both videos appeared just as Sunni Arabs in Iraq began Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. US 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 Private Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Private Thomas Tucker, 25, who went missing after being attacked by insurgents on June 16 at a checkpoint south of Baghdad.

The remains of the soldiers were found three days later, and the US military said they had been mutilated.

The video showed masked men dragging the corpses and later setting them on fire.

Below the graphic footage was a subtitle: "The two soldiers belong to the same brigade of the soldier who raped our sister in Mahmoudiya."

The US military has charged four soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division -- Specialist James Barker, Sergeant Paul Cortez, Private Jesse Spielman and Private Bryan Howard -- in the March 12 alleged rape and murder of teenager Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in Mahmoudiya, approximately 30km south of Baghdad.

A fifth suspect, Private Steven 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 US.

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, read a statement in Arabic, followed by the hostage, Murad Yucer from Ankara, who read his own statement, this time in Turkish.

After Yucer finished reading his statement, al-Masri shot him three times in the head.

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