June 2006 abduction of U.S. soldiers in Iraq
The June 2006 abduction of two U.S. soldiers in Iraq occurred in 2006 when military forces of the U.S. and a dozen more countries—often referred to as “the coalition”—conducted military operations in Iraq to “bring order to parts of that country that remain dangerous”.
On 16 June 2006, a U.S. checkpoint near Baghdad was attacked. One of the three American soldiers manning the checkpoint was killed, and the two others, Menchaca and Tucker, were abducted. Those two were recovered three days later, according to an Iraqi spokesman “killed in a very brutal way and tortured”. Mujahedeen Shura Council—an organization of six groups, including Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (‘al-Qaida in Iraq’), and forerunner of Islamic State of Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—claimed to have “slaughtered” the two abducted soldiers in revenge for the raping and dishonoring of an Iraqi girl by soldiers of the same U.S. brigade.
The United States with United Kingdom, Australia and Poland had in March 2003 invaded Iraq to rid Iraq from its Ba'ath Party government led by Saddam Hussein, and, when that was accomplished, in May 2003 decided to stay on in Iraq to “bring order to parts of that country that remain dangerous”.
A U.S. platoon’s unit of the 101st Airborne Division, that had recently lost 10 troops, including some leaders, killed in action, and was under investigation concerning a rape, 12 March 2006, of an Iraqi girl and the killing of that girl and her family by members of the unit (see Mahmudiyah killings), was in June 2006 charged with guarding a mobile bridge over a canal, at a traffic checkpoint south of Baghdad, at a crossing at the Eufrates River, on a road near Yusufiyah, in a notoriously dangerous region called the ‘Triangle of Death’.
Attack on a U.S. checkpoint
On 16 June 2006, aforesaid platoon ordered its Specialist David J. Babineau (aged 25), Private first class Kristian Menchaca (23) and Private first class Thomas L. Tucker (25) to operate the observation post guarding the aforesaid mobile bridge, for 24 to 36 hours, with just one Humvee, while other members of their platoon were at about ¾ mile distance. The three soldiers were attacked in an ambush. Babineau was killed, Menchaca and Tucker were captured and abducted.
The distanced platoon members heard small arms fire at 7:49 p.m., arrived at the checkpoint 25 minutes later, found Babineau dead and Menchaca and Tucker disappeared.
Mujahedeen Shura Council gives notice
8,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops went searching for the two missing soldiers, during which search one more American died and 12 U.S. or Iraqi men were wounded, while coalition troops killed two insurgents and detained 78.
Mujahedeen Shura Council—an organization of six groups, including Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (‘al-Qaida in Iraq’) fighting the multinational occupation force in Iraq since 2004—on Monday 19 June claimed it was holding Menchaca and Tucker captive, and said: ”we shall give you more details about the incident in the next few days, God willing.”
Recovering two killed soldiers
That Monday night, 19 June, the searching American soldiers spotted the dead bodies of Menchaca and Tucker, three miles from where they had been captured, near the village of Mufaraji. Aware of roadside bombs, they awaited the morning of 20 June to go and retrieve the dead Menchaca and Tucker. Their bodies then appeared to be tied together and booby-trapped with bombs, and bombs were planted around the bodies and on the road leading up to them; it therefore took them 12 hours to recover the bodies.
An Iraqi General said Tuesday 20 June, Menchaca and Tucker had been “killed in a very brutal way and tortured” or tortured and “killed in a barbaric way”. U.S. General Caldwell said Menchaca and Tucker appeared not to have died from wounds received during the initial battle with the guerrillas; that they clearly had been killed violently; and that their remains would be sent to the U.S. for DNA testing to definitely identify them and for trying to determine their exact cause of death.
MSC video trotting with dead soldiers
After Iraqi officials had on 20 June disclosed that the bodies of Menchaca and Tucker were found, Mujahedeen Shura Council (apparently) stated on Internet that Zarqawi’s successors, or successor, had “slaughtered” the two American soldiers, in accordance with “God’s will”; the Arabic word “Nahr” used in the posting denotes the cutting of the throat.
On 10 July 2006, the Mujahedeen Shura Council issued a 4:39 minute video showing the mutilated corpses of Menchaca and Tucker. The video begins with a message stating that this video is presented as ”revenge for our sister who was dishonored by a soldier of the same brigade”, referencing the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and her family (see section Background and see Mahmudiyah killings). Then the video continues with an audio clip of Osama bin Laden, and then an audio track from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is heard over the scenes displaying and prodding the two corpses, both dead: one of them is beheaded, the other one lies face down on the ground while someone steps on his head.
U.S. officials said on 11 July 2006, the released MSC video “demonstrates the barbaric and brutal nature of the terrorists and their complete disregard for human life”.
Lt. Gen. James D. Thurman, the U.S. forces’ commander in Iraq in 2006, ordered a military investigation into the whole affair. The investigating officer, Lt. Col. T. Daugherty, concluded in his report in May 2007 that the army unit concerned was at the time hurt by the recent loss of 10 troops, including several leaders, killed in action, and by the subsequent shuffle of the platoon’s leadership for three times and had been dogged by the ongoing investigation into the rape and killing of an Iraqi girl and her family (see section Background); that it was unrealistic to expect the three soldiers to operate that observation post that day (see above) for 24 to 36 hours; and that the platoon leader and the company commander had failed to provide proper supervision to the unit or enforce military standards. Daugherty recommended letters of reprimand as penalty for those two officers, a lieutenant and a captain. General Thurman however decided to a harsher penalty: removal of those two officers from their commands. In addition, administrative actions were taken against several other officers, which have not been disclosed due to reasons of privacy protection.
Trial of an Iraqi suspect
In October 2008, an Iraqi court convicted and sentenced to death Ibrahim Karim Muhammed Salih al-Qaraghuli for the abduction, torture, and killing of Menchaca and Tucker. Expert testimony linked al-Qaraghuli's fingerprints to bloody prints found on the truck used to drag the bodies of Tucker and Menchaca through the streets of Yusufiyah. Two additional suspects were acquitted by the court for lack of evidence. The court partially relied on statements of six witnesses who all had refused to show up in court. American officials stated that DNA evidence was recovered that tied a second defendant to the killings. That evidence however was not addressed by the court due to their refusal to use an American DNA expert and the lack of an available Iraqi expert.
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