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The bodies of two American soldiers who went missing after a Friday attack on their checkpoint have been recovered, U.S. and Iraqi military officials said Tuesday.

The bodies of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, Texas, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., were recovered late Monday night not far from where the attack occurred near Youssifiyah, officials said.

The American military spokesman in Baghdad, U.S. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, at first stopped short of confirming the soldiers’ identities, but later in the afternoon Caldwell updated the situation, saying, “We have found the bodies believed to be our soldiers, and taken them back in our custody.”

Caldwell stressed that the families needed to be notified of any change in their status. According to various reports, those notifications took place in the early morning hours Tuesday.

A senior Iraqi defense official first declared on Tuesday morning that the bodies had been found. U.S. officials confirmed the report later in the day, but declined to comment on the Iraqi’s assertion that the bodies showed signs of “barbaric torture.”

Caldwell said the remains of the missing soldiers were spotted Monday night near an electrical plant, but the “unstable condition” of security in the area did not allow U.S. forces to retrieve them until Tuesday morning.

He said the troops had encountered a lot of roadside bombs and other explosives during the three-day search and that there were fears the bodies themselves may have been booby-trapped.

The recovery of the bodies ended an enormous search operation that included more than 8,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops. One American soldier was killed in the search operation and another 12 had been wounded, Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said Tuesday.

“We are all very much aware of the atrocities they commit … with their victims that they take into custody. It pains us to realize what other servicemembers may go through,” he said, while not confirming or denying information on the condition in which the bodies were recovered.

A third soldier, Spc. David J. Babineau, was killed in the attack. All three were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

An investigation into the incident — in which the soldiers, in a single Humvee, came under attack — would be undertaken, Caldwell said.

Caldwell noted that two servicemembers, Army Sgt. Keith “Matt” Maupin and Navy Capt. Scott Speicher, and 11 other American citizens are still listed as missing in Iraq. Maupin was captured in an April 2004 attack on a convoy and Speicher was shot down over Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War.

The bodies will be flown to the U.S. military’s mortuary facility at Dover Air Force Base, Del., where the military keeps DNA samples on every servicemember, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said.

The U.S. military normally brings servicemembers who are killed in Iraq through the Theater Mortuary Evacuation Point at Camp Wolverine, Kuwait, where they stay less than a day before transport through Germany to Dover.

The Associated Press and Stars and Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess contributed to this report.

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