WASHINGTON—An al-Qaida-affiliated group said Monday in a videotape that two missing American soldiers captured last month south of Baghdad had been killed.
But in an unusual tactic for a group that often uses images to prove what it has done, the Islamic State of Iraq offered no evidence to back its claims. Instead, the video showed armed, hooded men allegedly planning the pre-dawn ambush that led to the soldiers' capture and, in the final frames of the 10:41-minute video, some of the soldiers' personal items, including military-issued ID cards, credit cards and a cross.
The group said it killed Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., because the military didn't heed warnings to end its search for the missing men.
In the video, a man said, "Their end will be underneath the ground, God (Allah) willing," but that their bodies wouldn't be returned to their families because "you refused to deliver the bodies of our killed people," referring to Iraqi civilians.
U.S. military officials said the search for the missing men would continue. Friends and fellow soldiers said they believe the soldiers are still alive.
"I am still not convinced right now," said Cathy Conger, 49, a Fouty family friend who said she had been watching news reports of the videotape all day in the hopes of more information. "Maybe they said that to get (the military) to back off the search," she said. "Maybe we were getting close."
Fouty, Jimenez and Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif., members of the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, N.Y., were captured when insurgents overran their observation post outside the city of Mahmoudiya in the early morning hours of May 12. Four other U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in the attack.
Anzack's body was found May 23 floating in the Euphrates River.
Military officials in both Baghdad and Washington said they had many reasons not to view the tape as proof that the missing men are dead, not the least of which is that it didn't show the men's bodies.
The video was obtained by Washington-based SITE Institute and but wasn't posted on a Web site that commonly carries such insurgent communications.
The tape opens with images of a group of hooded men studying a diagram pinned to a tree as an Arabic-speaking narrator describes why the group killed the soldiers. The narrator later addresses American mothers and wives, telling them their sons have been sent to die for nothing.
Toward the end, the cameraman, filming a burning Humvee, weeps as he calls out to God. The tape ends with a new broadcast from the al-Jazeera satellite channel about the raid and kidnapping. Over the images of Jimenez's and Fouty's ID cards, a headline reads: "Bush is the reason for the loss of your prisoners."
The last time American troops were captured in Iraq was in June 2006, when two soldiers were snatched just south of Baghdad. Days later, their mutilated bodies were discovered covered with booby-traps. It took soldiers 12 hours to remove the traps. An al-Qaida-affiliated group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying: "We announce the good news to our Islamic nation that we executed God's will and slaughtered the two crusader animals we had in captivity."