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Thursday, September 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Iraq Notebook
Two U.S. soldiers held in slayings


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BAGHDAD, Iraq — The U.S. military said yesterday that it had charged two soldiers attached to the Army's 1st Cavalry Division with premeditated murder in the deaths of three Iraqis.

The military named the two soldiers, Sgt. Michael P. Williams and Spec. Brent W. May, but did not provide further details about the deaths. Williams also was charged with obstruction of justice and making a false official statement, the military said.

"The specific events relating to these charges cannot be discussed at this time because of the Army Criminal Investigation Division's ongoing investigation," the military said in a statement.

The two soldiers, who serve with the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment based in Fort Riley, Kan., are the first U.S. troops charged with the premeditated murder of an Iraqi since the U.S.-led invasion 18 months ago.

A British soldier was charged this month with killing a civilian in southeastern Iraq in August 2003.

NATO agrees to create training academy in Iraq

BRUSSELS — NATO allies agreed yesterday to create a military training academy in Iraq, expanding the alliance's small presence in the country after two years of feuding over the U.S.-led war.

Ambassadors at NATO's headquarters in Belgium reached the accord after overcoming concerns raised by France and other opponents of the U.S.-led war that feared a larger presence would be tantamount to putting the alliance into the Iraqi battlefield through the back door.

"Today NATO ambassadors agreed on the political directions to the military to enhance NATO assistance to the government of Iraq in the training of its security forces," said NATO spokesman James Appathurai, who stressed that NATO was there for training and that it would have no direct combat role. The mission will report to NATO but receive help from the U.S.-led Multinational Force.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. ambassador to NATO, said the accord, which is expected to raise the NATO presence to around 300 from just 40 now, was a "significant step by the alliance."
 
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The NATO academy will focus on training medium- and senior-ranking Iraqi officers.

U.S. reportedly kills abductors' spiritual leader

AMMAN, Jordan — The spiritual leader of the group believed to have beheaded two U.S. hostages in Iraq this week has been killed in a U.S. airstrike, his family and Islamic clerics said yesterday.

The death of Sheik Abu Anas al-Shami is a blow to Iraq's most active militant group, Tawhid and Jihad, which is led by Jordanian-born militant Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, experts said. But they add that such groups manage to survive, with other militants replacing the slain ones.

Al-Shami, a Palestinian who holds Jordanian citizenship, was killed Sept. 17 when a missile hit the car in which he was traveling in a western Baghdad suburb, said the clerics, who have close ties to the family and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Al-Shami's father, Youssef Jumah, said he learned of the death Monday from his eldest son, Jumah, who lives in the United Arab Emirates. He declined to say how his son was informed.

Troops battle insurgents in central city of Samarra

SAMARRA, Iraq — Clashes erupted after sunset yesterday in the central city of Samarra, where U.S. forces had earlier claimed success against militants, police said.

At least one child was killed and five people wounded in fighting in the city's northeastern neighborhood of Qadisiya, said police Maj. Raed Saadoun Ahmad. Four houses also were damaged, he said.

It was the first significant attack in Samarra since U.S. troops moved back into the city earlier this month, for the first time since May 30 as part of a peace deal brokered by tribal leaders.

Insurgents had made the city 65 miles north of Baghdad a virtual "no-go" zone.

Also

In Baghdad, fighting in the Sadr City district killed 10 Iraqis and injured another 92. U.S. officials said American troops launched attacks there in an effort to take control of the Baghdad slum from insurgents loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Also yesterday, a car bomb killed at least six and injured nearly 60 at an Iraqi military recruiting center on al Rabea Street in western Baghdad. The bombing was aimed at men waiting in front of an ice-cream shop to apply for positions in the new Iraqi National Guard.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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