updated 9/23/2006 5:29:55 PM ET 2006-09-23T21:29:55

An al-Qaida-linked group posted a Web video Saturday purporting to show the bodies of two American soldiers being dragged behind a truck, then set on fire in apparent retaliation for the alleged rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman by U.S. troops from the same unit.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council — an umbrella organization of insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq — posted another video in June showing the soldiers’ mutilated bodies, and claiming it killed them. It was not clear whether the video posted Saturday was a continuation of that footage, or why it was released.

The footage also appeared the same day previously released video was posted again, showing the man purported to be the new leader of Al-Qaida in Iraq execute a Turkish hostage.

If described accurately, the images would be the first of Abu Ayyub al-Masri to be released since the group announced that he had succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a U.S. air strike in Iraq on June 7.

Both videos appeared just as Sunni Arabs in Iraq began Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. U.S. officials have warned that attacks could intensify during Ramadan.

Grisly scene
It was impossible to identify the bodies, but the footage was believed to be of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, who went missing after being attacked by insurgents on June 16 at a checkpoint south of Baghdad. Their remains were found three days later, and the U.S. military said they had been mutilated.

The video showed masked men dragging the corpses, first by hand, then behind a truck, beheading one of them and then setting them on fire. Below the graphic footage is a subtitle: “The two soldiers belong to the same brigade of the soldier who raped our sister in Mahmoudiya.”

The U.S military has charged four soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division — Spc. James P. Barker, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard — in the March 12 alleged rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe is accused of failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

A fifth suspect, Pfc. Steven D. Green, was discharged from the army because of a “personality disorder” before the allegations became known. He has pleaded not guilty to rape and murder charges and is being held in a civilian court in the United States.

Mahmoudiya is an extremely violent region in Iraq in an area known as the “triangle of death” for the numerous attacks by insurgents.

The two slain soldiers also were from the 101st Airborne Division.

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