BAGHDAD, Iraq—An al-Qaida-affiliated umbrella group that boasts that it's holding three U.S. soldiers who went missing after an ambush last weekend used an Islamic extremist Web site on Monday to warn that the search for the American troops only puts them in greater peril.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, said it believed that an al-Qaida group was responsible for killing four Americans and one Iraqi soldier on Saturday and for the disappearance of the other three. But it reacted skeptically to the claims on the Web site.
A post purporting to come from the Islamic State in Iraq mocked a televised discussion of the search by Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, comparing it to when he announced the killing of al-Qaida leader Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri two weeks ago.
"He was showing off that they could kill our sheik," the Web site declared. "Today, you had a catastrophe, because your false propaganda says the American soldier is invincible and cannot be captured."
A U.S. spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, said the statement claiming responsibility "could have come from anybody with access to a Web page."
Coalition forces continued their intense search of Mahmoudiyah and a neighboring town about 20 miles south of Baghdad on Monday. Garver said residents of the area continued to offer tips on the whereabouts of the captured soldiers.
"You then have to research that information to find out if it's true," he said. "But we are continuing to have a dialogue."
The Web message also characterized the bloody attack Saturday as revenge for the rape of a 14-year-old girl and the killing of her family last year. Three U.S. soldiers have pleaded guilty in the case.
"Remember what you have done with our sister ... and what you have done in the land of two rivers by killing, displacing and arresting," the Web site said.
Islamic State in Iraq first claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday. On Monday it said the subsequent U.S.-led search would only further endanger the men. Two American soldiers who went missing from a checkpoint in the area last year were found killed and their bodies mutilated, while the path to their corpses was booby-trapped.
There were unconfirmed reports that the some of the 4,000-plus troops involved in the search encountered isolated small-arms fire near Youssifiyah, a town encompassed by the manhunt.
Two U.S. soldiers on foot patrol southeast of Baghdad were shot to death in a separate incident Monday, the military said. And a Danish soldier was killed and five others were wounded near Basra in southern Iraq.
In a non-violent but potentially politically loaded incident, three parliament members complained that they were detained while trying to leave the highly fortified Green Zone after a legislative session. The followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr claimed they were kept at a checkpoint in retaliation for their support of legislation to set a timetable for Americans to withdraw from the country.
U.S. forces who control security in the area disputed their account, saying the legislators had tried to enter a car where parking and loading are prohibited for security reasons. Their IDs were requested and immediately returned after they were checked, Garver said.
A roundup of violence in Iraq is posted daily at the McClatchy Washington Bureau Web site, www.mcclatchydc.com. Click on Iraq War Coverage.
(Canon reports for The Kansas City Star. Hammoudi is a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent.)