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Ex-Army private charged with rape, four killings in Iraq
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — A recently discharged U.S. Army private appeared in federal court Monday on charges that he raped and murdered an Iraqi woman after rounding up and killing three members of her family as part of a planned assault in the central Iraqi town of Mahmoudiya.
Steven D. Green, 21, was arrested Friday in Marion, N.C., after a four-day nationwide manhunt. Army investigators recently were told by soldiers still serving in Iraq that Green, accompanied by three other soldiers, had committed the rape and murders in March. A fifth soldier reportedly stayed at a checkpoint to monitor the radio.
If found guilty on murder charges, Green could be sentenced to death.
According to the FBI, Green received an honorable discharge from the Army and returned to the United States before the Mahmoudiya allegations came to light. An affidavit submitted by FBI Special Agent Gregor J. Ahlers in Kentucky said military personnel files show that a "personality disorder" led to the discharge, which apparently was approved at least two months ago.
Because Green's is the first case of alleged wrongdoing by an American serviceman in Iraq to go through the civilian U.S. legal process, Ahlers' six-page affidavit — submitted Friday in support of a request for an arrest warrant — is one of the most detailed public accountings of abuse accusations yet.
More than 30 soldiers have been implicated in the wrongful deaths of Iraqi civilians. Those incidents include the deaths in 2005 of 24 men, women and children in the western town of Haditha and the killing of three detainees in May north of Baghdad. Last week, the U.S. military said it had charged two soldiers with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed Ramadi resident in February.
The killings have fanned unease between Iraqi officials and the U.S. military, and the incident in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, is considered likely to aggravate tensions further because of its violent, sexual nature.
Civilian deaths:Deaths among Iraq civilians, police and soldiers killed in political or sectarian violence dropped slightly from 1,053 in May to 1,006 last month. The number of Iraqis wounded rose from 1,426 in May to 1,769 in June. Those totals do not include the 66 people killed and about 100 wounded in Saturday's car bombing in Baghdad.
Soldiers killed: The military reported a Marine was killed Monday in Anbar province and a soldier died Sunday when an explosive hit his vehicle north of Baghdad. As of Monday, at least 2,539 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war.
Dozens killed: Violence took the lives of at least two dozen more people Monday. In the bloodiest attack, a car bomb in the northern city of Mosul killed seven people, including two police officers.
The Associated Press and The Washington Post
Ahlers said his information came largely from Army investigators, who interviewed at least three of the five soldiers allegedly involved in the Mahmoudiya incident. An Army official said none of the other four soldiers has been charged or detained, but they are under close supervision in Iraq.
All are members of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, which is currently attached to the 4th Infantry Division.
In Ahlers' affidavit, two of the soldiers described themselves as mainly standing watch outside the civilians' house while Green and another soldier — identified as "Known Participant 1" — allegedly raped the woman. The third soldier interviewed said he was told to stay behind and monitor the radio while the others went to the woman's house. All three have submitted sworn statements.
According to their accounts, Green and the other soldier were drinking alcohol — prohibited for U.S. troops in Iraq — while manning a checkpoint on the night of March 11 when they started talking about having sex with the woman, whom they had seen during a visit to her house.
After the decision was made to rape the woman, according to the FBI affidavit, three of the soldiers changed out of their uniforms and into dark clothes. One soldier told investigators that Green covered his face with a brown T-shirt. One of the soldiers told investigators he changed clothes so he "wouldn't be seen."
The affidavit said four of the soldiers then grabbed three rifles and a shotgun and headed to the house. The fifth soldier was said to have stayed behind at the checkpoint.
According to the accounts of the two who stood guard, Green went to a back bedroom, closed the door and shot three members of a family. An Army official said the three were believed to be the woman's mother, father and sister, approximately age 5. "Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone: 'I just killed them, all are dead,' " the FBI affidavit said.
Around the same time, the soldier identified as the "known participant" grabbed the young woman and threw her to the floor, according to the affidavit. The two soldiers acting as guards told investigators that both Green and the other soldier raped the woman before Green picked up an assault rifle he had found at the house and killed her.
The incident was brought to the attention of U.S. forces the next day, when local Iraqis told soldiers manning the checkpoint that four members of their family had been killed and the house had been set afire. The incident did not raise suspicions at the time because it was believed to have been the work of insurgents.
The possible involvement of U.S. personnel came to light two weeks ago, when a soldier in the 502nd Infantry Regiment came forward with rumors of the March incident during a "combat stress debriefing" concerning the mutilation deaths of two soldiers from the same unit by Iraqi insurgents.
Green appeared in a Charlotte, N.C., courtroom Monday, where he was charged with four counts of unlawful killing and one count of a forced sexual act. Cecilia Oseguera, the public defender who represented Green, declined to comment.
Green has the right to a procedural hearing in Charlotte before being transported to Kentucky. The arrest warrant was issued Friday by a magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in the western district of Kentucky; the 101st Airborne Division, which the 502nd Infantry is normally part of, is based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
An Army official said Green's case could move back into the military criminal-justice system, but civilian prosecutors are considered likely to resist such a move. A law called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, passed in 2000, allows crimes committed in foreign countries by American servicemen to be prosecuted as if they had been committed on U.S. soil.
An Army official said Monday that Green's discharge for a "personality disorder" does not necessarily indicate a mental disorder. Such a notation can be used to document willful disobedience or a personality that does not mesh well with military life.
Mahmoudiya Mayor Mouyad Fadhil Saif said in a telephone interview that Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, who commands the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, told him during a meeting Monday that "a homicide was committed here" and that U.S. military leaders would offer an official apology when the investigation is complete.
Fadhil said Monday that local authorities have started their own investigation into the case. He identified the victims as Qassim Hamza; his wife, Fikhriya Taha; and their daughters, Abeer Qassim Hamza and Hadeel Qassim Hamza.
The age of the rape victim is unclear. U.S. officials close to the case have described her as a young woman, and FBI documents estimated her age at 25.
Information from the Washington Post and The Associated Press is included in this report.
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