Iraq group claims it captured 2 U.S. soldiers

An Iraqi militant group claimed Monday that it abducted two U.S. soldiers in an attack last week south of Baghdad.

An Iraqi militant group claimed Monday that it abducted two U.S. soldiers in an attack last week south of Baghdad.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council isalso claiming it has taken four Russian diplomats hostage, demanding Moscow pull out of Chechnya and free Muslim prisoners.

"Your brothers in the military wing of the Mujahedeen Shura Council kidnapped the two American soldiers near Yusufiya," said the statement on a website used by al-Qaeda-linked groups.

The U.S. Defence Department identified the missing soldiers as Pte. 1st Class Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pte. 1st Class Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore.

However, it hasn't confirmed whether it believes the men are actually being held by the militant group.

Witnesses said the American soldiers were seized Friday evening after Iraqi insurgents lured two of three U.S. military vehicles away from a checkpoint in Yusufiya, about 20 kilometres south of Baghdad.

Gunmen then attacked the remaining vehicle, killing Specialist David J. Babineau, 25, and kidnapping two other men, the local residents said.

Attack took place in deadly region

The Mujahedeen Shura Council is an umbrella organization that includes several militant groups. Those groups include al-Qaeda in Iraq, whose leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. air strike earlier this month.

The attack occurred in a Sunni-dominated region south of the capital that is known as the Triangle of Death because ofits high number of insurgent attacks.

The same group also took credit Mondayfor the capture earlier this month offour Russian embassy staff.A fifth Russian embassy employee was shot dead during the attack.

"God has enabled the lions of monotheism to seize four Russian diplomats in Iraq and kill a fifth," the group said in the statement posted on the website.

"The Council's sharia court decided to give the Russian government 48 hours to meet the following demands or bear the consequences: the immediate withdrawal from Chechnya and the release of all our brothers and sisters held in Russian jails."

The group did not say what the consequences would be if their demands are not met.