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US soldier arrested for rape and four murders in Iraq

Friday, July 7, 2006

U.S. federal prosecutors have charged a former U.S. soldier who served in Iraq with the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the murder of three members of her family, including the girl's sister believed to be five years old.

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The rape victim, Abeer Qassim Hamza, was 14 years old. Although an FBI affidavit (based on soldiers' accounts) estimated her age to be 25, Reuters obtained documents that gave her date of birth as August 19, 1991. The other victims have been identified as Fikhriya Taha, the girl's mother; her father Qassim Hamza, and her younger sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza.

The charges follow a military investigation into the involvement of as many as five soldiers in the rape and murders committed in the town of Mahmoudiya, 30 km south of Baghdad, on March 12.

Steven D. Green

Steven D. Green, a 21-year-old former Army private first class in the 101st Airborne Division, appeared in a federal magistrate's courtroom in Charlotte on Monday. FBI agents had arrested Green on Friday and he is being held in Charlotte without bond pending a transfer to Louisville, Kentucky. He was honorably discharged from the Army in May 2006 because of an alleged "personality disorder."

In an affidavit, FBI special agent Gregor J. Ahlers said Green and three other soldiers from the 101st's 502nd Infantry Regiment were on duty at a traffic checkpoint when they conspired to rape the female who lived nearby.

According to witness testimony in the affidavit, the soldiers changed their clothes before going to the victims' home to avoid detection. Green took three members of the family - an adult male and female, and a girl estimated to be 5 years old—into a bedroom. Shots were heard from inside the bedroom.

"Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone, 'I just killed them, all are dead,'" Ahlers wrote in the affidavit.

The affidavit is based on interviews conducted by the FBI and investigators at Fort Campbell with soldiers assigned to Green's platoon. One of the soldiers said he witnessed Green and another soldier rape the girl.

"After the rape, (the soldier) witnessed Green shoot the woman in the head two-to-three times," the affidavit said.

U.S. officials and others had previously claimed the Iraqi family was killed in sectarian violence. Abeer Hamza's uncle, Ahmed Taha, told AP Television News that the family had believed insurgents had carried out the killings until the US military made public its investigation last week.

"Some said it was insurgents, and in fact, we ruled out the American troops," Taha said.

Response

The news of the killings and rape was met with a wave of anger in parts of Iraq and the Iraqi government directed at the nature of the current US military presence. "We believe that the immunity given to members of coalition forces encouraged them to commit such crimes in cold blood (and) that makes it necessary to review it," was the opinion of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a visit to Kuwait, July 7.

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One Baghdad resident, Hussein al-Shimmari, said that the incident "shows the barbaric and aggressive nature of Americans." The Americans themselves claim they are in Iraq to help the government protect its democracy and are reported to have reviewed the way soldiers deal with Iraqi citizens.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Zalmay Khalilzad, ambassador to Iraq, issued a joint apology Thursday. "We understand this is painful, confusing and disturbing," they said, "not only to the family who lost a loved one, but to the Iraqi people as a whole."

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