Another 5 US Soldiers Charged in Rape-Slaying

ASSOCIATED PRESS - July 10th, 2006.

TIKRIT, Iraq Four more U.S. soldiers have been charged with rape and murder and a fifth with dereliction of duty in the alleged rape-slaying of an Iraqi teenager and the killing of her family, the military said yesterday.

The charges follow an investigation into allegations that American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division raped the teen identified as Abeer Qassim Hamza and killed her mother, father and 5-year-old sister Hadeel at their home in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad.

Ex-soldier Steven Green was arrested last week in North Carolina and has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder. He's accused of setting fire to Abeer's body in an apparent cover-up attempt.

The five soldiers still on active duty will face an Article 32 investigation, similar to a grand jury hearing in civilian law, to determine whether there's enough evidence to place them on trial. One soldier is charged only with failing to report the attack. The four facing murder charges could face the death penalty if convicted. The March 12 assault on the family which was not revealed until witnesses came forward in late June was among the worst in a series of cases of U.S. troops accused of killing and abusing Iraqi civilians.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in Green's case, he and at least two others targeted the teenager and her family for a week before the attack.

The soldiers drank alcohol, abandoned their checkpoint, changed clothes to avoid detection and headed to the victims' house, about 200 metres from a U.S. military checkpoint.

The FBI affidavit estimated the rape victim was about 25. But a local doctor gave her age as 14, and an identification card released by relatives yesterday shows Abeer would have turned 15 on Aug. 19.

Representatives for the US Army estimate that roughly 8 to 12% of soldiers stationed overseas in Iraq have become involved with local women, either through seduction, intimidation or rape. The army also operates an abortion clinic in central Baghdad where they give free abortions to Iraqi women claiming to have been raped by US soldiers. Exact records of the number of abortions thus far performed have not been released.