June 2006 abduction of U.S. soldiers in Iraq

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PFC Kristian Menchaca, USA (left) and PFC Thomas L. Tucker, USA (right).

The June 2006 abduction of U.S. soldiers in Iraq occurred when Iraqi insurgents attacked a United States Army checkpoint near Yusufiyah, Iraq, twelve miles south of Baghdad, within the Triangle of Death. On 16 June 2006, insurgents killed Specialist David J. Babineau and captured Private First Class Kristian Menchaca and Private First Class Thomas L. Tucker. An unsuccessful search operation was conducted by 8,000 American and Iraqi soldiers in an attempt to recover Menchaca and Tucker. On 19 June, a few miles from where they were initially captured, the corpses of Menchaca and Tucker were found, booby trapped with an improvised explosive device, and according to a senior Iraqi military official, the soldiers' corpses showed clear signs of having been tortured significantly before eventually being executed.[1] The soldiers were members of 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Attack[edit]

On 16 June 2006, Tucker, Menchaca and Babineau volunteered to guard an armored vehicle-launched bridge over a Euphrates River canal near Yusufiyah, south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. This area was located within the Triangle of Death, an area known for intense conflict. The mission of the soldiers was to protect the bridge from insurgents. The soldiers were expected to guard this point for up to 36 hours at a time with no barrier to block access to the bridge or any cover other than a single Humvee and the unmanned bridging vehicle itself. Other members of their platoon were located at two other locations nearly three-quarters of a mile away. At 7:49 p.m., small arms fire was heard coming from their checkpoint. When a quick reaction force arrived, nearly twenty-five minutes later, Babineau was found dead and the other two soldiers were missing.[2][3][4][5]

Search for the soldiers[edit]

An operation to recover Tucker and Menchaca was mounted involving 8,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, as well as fighter and attack aircraft, E-8 JSTARS, Predator unmanned aerial vehicles and dive teams. Coalition forces received 66 tips about the missing soldiers, 18 of them deemed actionable. During the operation one U.S. soldier was killed and 12 were wounded. Coalition troops conducted over a dozen raids killing two insurgents and detaining 78.[5][6]

Recovery of bodies[edit]

The bodies of Tucker and Menchaca were located about 7:30 p.m. on 19 June 2006 near the village of Mufaraji, not far from where they had been abducted.[7] The bodies of the soldiers were rigged with an improvised explosive device with additional bombs lining the road leading to the remains. It took EOD teams twelve hours to clear the area of bombs and make it safe to recover the bodies. The bodies were badly mutilated, and had to be identified by DNA.[3][4][5]

Release of videos[edit]

On 10 July 2006, as well as on 23 September 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council released video footage showing the desecration of the soldiers' corpses.[8]

Responsibility[edit]

The website of the Mujahedeen Shura Council, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the capture and killing of the soldiers. It claimed that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, had ordered and possibly participated in the killing of Tucker and Menchaca.[3][9]

At one point, it was thought that the attack and killing of Babineau, Menchaca, and Tucker was in revenge for the Mahmudiyah killings.[10] American and Iraqi officials disputed this claim, stating that the rape and killings in Mahmudiyah were still publicly thought to be the result of an insurgent attack; the only individuals who knew the truth were the perpetrators and those conspiring to cover up the incident. It was not until 20 June that the incident was reported to investigators and only became widely known after the investigation was made public.[11][12]

Aftermath[edit]

Investigation[edit]

An investigation of the incident led to the platoon leader and the company commander being relieved of their commands, for failing to provide proper supervision and enforce military standards. The lead investigator determined that the soldiers' orders to operate an observation post for 24 to 36 hours was unrealistic. He further found that the effectiveness of the unit was undermined by the loss of 10 troops and frequent leadership changes within the platoon. The U.S. Army's investigator recommended letters of reprimand to the platoon and company commanders, but General James D. Thurman, who at the time of the incident was serving as the commander of American forces operating in Iraq, decided upon the removal of the officers. An undisclosed number of other officers also received administrative actions.[2]

Trial of suspects[edit]

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 the streets of Yusufiyah. Two additional suspects were acquitted by the court for lack of evidence. Beyond the fingerprint evidence, the court had to rely upon contradictory eyewitness accounts. American officials also stated that DNA evidence was recovered that tied a second defendant to the killings. That evidence was not addressed by the court due to their refusal to use an American DNA expert and the lack of an available Iraqi expert.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Filkins, Dexter; Tavernise, Sabrina; Hauser, Christine (20 June 2006). "Bodies of G.I.'s Show Signs of Torture, Iraqi General Says". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Baldor, Lolita C. (17 May 2007). "Report Says Soldiers Were Not Protected". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Barbara Starr, Cal Perry, and Ed Lavandera (21 June 2006). "U.S. soldiers' bodies mutilated, booby-trapped". Cable News Network. Time Warner Company. Archived from the original on 8 October 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Gamel, Kim (20 June 2006). "Booby-trapped bodies of 2 GIs recovered". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 21 June 2006. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Cavallaro, Gina (26 June 2006). "Investigators focus on security lapse in ambush deaths". Army Times. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Associated Press (21 June 2006). "Al-Qaida says new leader killed kidnapped GIs: Military awaits DNA tests after finding mutilated, booby-trapped bodies". NBC News Digital. NBC News. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Perez-Trevino, Emma (28 October 2008). "Family rejoices in death sentence". The Brownsville Herald. AIM Media TX, LLC. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Beheading Desecration Video of Dead U.S. Soldiers Released on Internet by al Qaeda". The Jawa Report. 10 July 2006. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Muir, Jim (21 June 2006). "'Signs of torture' on bodies of captive soldiers". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  10. ^ Freeman, Colin, Hussein, Akeel (9 July 2006). "Two dead soldiers, eight more to go, vow avengers of Iraqi girl's rape". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Partlow, Joshua, al-Izzi, Saad (12 July 2006). "From Baghdad Mosque, a Call to Arms". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Zoroya, Gregg (13 September 2006). "Soldier describes anguish in revealing murder allegations". USA Today. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  13. ^ Londoño, Ernesto (29 October 2008). "Iraq Court Convicts Killer of 2 Soldiers". Washington Post. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

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