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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 U.S. Soldiers' Bodies Found in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- The bodies of two U.S. soldiers who went missing after an attack on their checkpoint have been found, an Iraqi official said Tuesday.

The U.S. military had launched an intensive hunt for the soldiers involving aircraft and thousands of troops after vowing not to leave them "out there." U.S. military officials in Baghdad had no immediate comment, but U.S. network CNN said the Pentagon had confirmed the discovery of two unidentified bodies.

The discovery came as more bomb blasts shook Baghdad, killing nine people despite a security clampdown. The U.S. military also said troops hunting insurgents linked to al-Qaida had killed 15 gunmen in raids north of the capital.

Senior Iraqi Defense Ministry official Major General Abdul Aziz Mohammed said the bodies of Privates Thomas Lowell Tucker, 25, and Kristian Menchaca, 23, were found near an electricity plant in Yusufiya, the area in which they were abducted.

He did not say when the soldiers were killed or when their bodies were found. U.S.-based Fox News television said the bodies showed signs of torture, citing reports to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials by civilians who found them.

The Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella body of insurgent groups led by al-Qaida, claimed in an Internet posting on Monday to have abducted the two men. However, it provided no video nor documentary evidence that it was holding them and some U.S. officials cast doubt on the statement.

The two went missing at dusk Friday after an ambush at a checkpoint in Yusufiya, a town in an area south of Baghdad some Iraqis call the "Triangle of Death," which is an al-Qaida stronghold. Another soldier was killed in the attack.

Their deaths dealt a blow to the U.S. military after it killed the al-Qaida leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in an air strike on a "safe house" near Baquba north of Baghdad.

U.S. forces hunting insurgents linked to a suspected senior al-Qaida member launched simultaneous pre-dawn raids near Baquba on Tuesday, the U.S military said.

U.S. soldiers came under fire from the rooftop of a house in the village of Qaduri Ali al-Shahin, 13 kilometers north of Baquba, as the operation got under way. Troops and supporting aircraft returned fire, killing 11 gunmen.

A police source said the victims included a 12-year-old boy. Reuters footage showed a bloodied mattress on the floor of one of the houses. Two spent bullet casings lay nearby. Residents said the boy had been sleeping on the mattress when he was shot.

As the bodies were loaded onto the trucks, one man lifted up the blanket covering one victim and cried out "Why God, why?"

A car bomb killed seven people in a crowded Baghdad market Tuesday, while a roadside bomb blast in a central district of the capital killed two.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday that Japan would withdraw its 550 soldiers, engaged in reconstruction and humanitarian work in Iraq.