The U.S. military says two bodies found near Yusufiya in Iraq are believed to be those of two missing American soldiers.
Major General William Caldwell said in Baghdad today DNA testing will be conducted to confirm the identities. He said the cause of death has not been determined.
An Iraqi spokesman General Abdul Aziz Mohammed told reporters the bodies bore signs of torture and vicious mistreatment.
On an Internet Web site, an Iraqi insurgent group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the killings. It said the throats of the soldiers had been slit. It praised the new head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer also known as Abu Ayyub
al-Masri, for ordering the killings.
The two Americans disappeared after an ambush on Friday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military says coalition forces killed 15 terrorists and detained several suspects during simultaneous raids north of the troubled city of Baquba today. However, local Iraqis said at least 13 civilians were killed in the raids.
General Caldwell also said American troops killed a senior member of al-Qaida in Iraq, whom he named as Sheikh Mansour. He did not describe the capture or killing of Mansour. He said Mansour was "taken out" near where the two Americans disappeared.
In other incidents, at least nine people were killed and more than 30 others wounded in two bomb blasts in Baghdad - one in a central market and the other in the mainly Shi'ite Sadr City area.
To the south, in Basra, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a home for the elderly, killing at least one person and wounding three others.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.