American forces searching for two soldiers abducted during an attack near Youssifiyah last week fought through at least 10 roadside bombs, dismantled 17 others before they could detonate, and found the soldiers’ remains strapped with yet another bomb, officials said late Monday.
Insurgents also conducted “harassing attacks” on the search teams with both indirect and direct fire.
In releasing more details about the search for Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, the U.S. military command in Baghdad said that 36 men suspected of involvement in the attack and abduction had been detained. Of those, 13 “are providing intelligence of value.”
In a news release, the military officially confirmed that the two sets of remains recovered near an electrical plant on June 19 were those of Menchaca and Tucker. Military medical examiners used DNA testing to confirm the soldiers’ identities; military officials said the two sets of remains had been “severely traumatized.”
According to an updated time line of the incident provided by Multi-National Corps-Iraq spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Martin–Hing, the initial attack was on a three-man security team manning a checkpoint near Youssifiyah, south of Baghdad, where the soldiers were guarding a canal crossing near the Euphrates River.
Spc. David J. Babineau was killed in the attack, and the other two soldiers were taken captive after “terrorists overwhelmed the position,” Martin-Hing said. All three soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.
Menchaca and Tucker were taken to an unknown location and later killed.
An hour after the attack, officials said, air and ground forces cordoned off the area and began search operations. Later, that search force would grow to 8,000 American and Iraqi troops.
“Twenty-five military operations were conducted, including 11 air assault missions. More than 12 villages and an old power plant were searched,” the news release read. “In the massive effort to locate the missing soldiers, 12 soldiers were wounded.”
Iraqi citizens reportedly provided almost 80 tips, with one local sheik and one detainee providing information that led to the remains being found. The remains were found on June 19 around 7:50 p.m. next to a road near the village of Mufaraji. The sources also warned of explosives in the area.
Troops waited until daylight to approach the bodies, and “at first light, the engineers cleared the route up to the site of the bodies, fighting their way through three roadside bombs in the process,” according to the release.
“The two bodies, severely traumatized, were found bound together with a [makeshift bomb] between one of the soldiers’ legs. The engineers successfully cleared the [bomb] and the surrounding area to allow recovery of the remains,” the release said.