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Soldiers' Bodies Were Tortured, Boobytrapped

The bodies of two U.S. soldiers, abducted by insurgents after a clash late last week, are on their way home to the United States, where they will undergo DNA testing. The bodies of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker were reportedly found south of Baghdad.

The attack, in which a third soldier was killed, set off a massive search. And despite widespread reports that the bodies found are those of Menchaca and Tucker, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell said that there would be no final confirmation of the identities until the families are notified.

Caldwell said that while 12 soldiers were wounded in the search, "we have killed two anti-Iraqi elements and detained 78."

The military says the remains were found late Monday night by forces acting on a tip from an Iraqi civilian, who also warned of possible explosives nearby.

When they retrieved the bodies, coalition forces had to carefully sidestep several bombs placed around the corpses.

The town in which they were found, Yusufiyah, is in an area known as the Triangle of Death because of the relentless attacks American forces face there. A former resident of Yusufiyah who asked to remain unidentified says it was always a deadly place, but it has recently become a no-man's land.

Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the two killings, saying its new leader, who replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had "slaughtered" the two captured Americans. The claim couldn't be verified, but an Iraqi defense ministry official told reporters the two men were killed in a barbaric way, and that their bodies showed signs of torture.

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Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.