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July 3rd, 2006 - Ex-Soldier Charged with Rape of Iraqi
By Tim Whitmire
The Associated Press
Monday, July 3, 2006; 3:38 PM
Charlotte, N.C. - Federal prosecutors accused a former U.S. soldier Monday of raping and murdering a young Iraqi woman and gunning down her family, all of whose bodies were found burned in an apparent coverup.
Steven D. Green, a 21-year-old former Army private first class who was recently discharged because of a "personality disorder," appeared in a federal magistrate's courtroom in Charlotte Monday.
The murder and rape charges against him grew out of a military investigation involving up to five soldiers in the March rape and killing of the woman in Mahmoudiya and three of her relatives, one of them a young girl believed to be about 5 years old.
Prosecutors said Green and others entered the home of a family of Iraqi civilians, where Green shot the three relatives, and he and another soldier raped the woman and killed her. According to an accompanying affidavit, photos taken by Army investigators in March showed a burned body of "what appears to be a woman with blankets thrown over her upper torso."
FBI agents arrested Green on Friday in Marion, N.C. He is being held in Charlotte without bond pending a transfer to Louisville, Ky.
The case is being handled by federal prosecutors there because Green, who served 11 months with the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., is no longer in the military. According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, he was given an honorable discharge "before this incident came to light. Green was discharged due to a personality disorder."
He faces a possible death sentence if convicted of murder.
In Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Joseph Breasseale, said "at this time" no other charges have been filed in the Mahmoudiya case.
The mayor of Mahmoudiya, Mouayad Fadhil, said Monday that Iraqi authorities had started their own investigation. He said U.S. Army officers were also seeking permission to exhume one of the bodies; the U.S. military declined to comment on the report because the investigation is ongoing.
The age of the rape victim was also unclear. U.S. officials close to the case have described her as a young woman, and FBI documents estimated her age at 25, but a neighbor of the family said the rape victim was 14 and her sister was 10.
The affidavit filed in Green's case by FBI special agent Gregor J. Ahlers of Louisville said Green and three other soldiers from the 101st's 502nd Infantry Regiment were working a traffic checkpoint in Mahmoudiya on March 12 when they conspired to rape a woman who lived nearby.
According to the affidavit's account, the soldiers changed their clothes before going to the woman's residence to avoid detection. Once there, the affidavit said, Green took three members of the family - an adult male and female, and a girl estimated to be 5 years old - into a bedroom, after which shots were heard from inside.
"Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone, 'I just killed them. All are dead,'" the affidavit said.
The affidavit is based on interviews conducted by the FBI and investigators at Fort Campbell with three unidentified soldiers assigned to Green's platoon. One of the soldiers said he witnessed another soldier and Green rape the woman.
"After the rape, (the soldier) witnessed Green shoot the woman in the head two to three times," the affidavit said.
Ahlers said in the affidavit that he also reviewed photos taken by Army investigators in Iraq of bodies found inside a burned house, including photos of an Iraqi man, woman and young girl who all appear to have died of gunshot wounds. He said he also reviewed a photo of a burned body of "what appears to be a woman with blankets thrown over her upper torso."
An official familiar with details of the investigation in Iraq has told The Associated Press that a flammable liquid was used to burn the rape victim's body in a cover-up attempt. U.S. officials have said they believed the victims were killed in sectarian violence.
On Friday, the U.S. military acknowledged that Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged slaying of a family in Mahmoudiya.
Four members of the 502nd have had their weapons taken away and were confined to a U.S. base near Mahmoudiya, officials said.
The suspects belong to the same unit as two soldiers kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad last month, a military official said on condition of anonymity because the case was under way.
The military has said that one and possibly both of the slain soldiers were tortured and beheaded. The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one member of the platoon to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.
According to the affidavit filed Monday, investigators learned of the March 12 attack during a combat stress debriefing that occurred around June 20.
Green will have a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing on July 10 in Charlotte, and will then be brought to Louisville, said Marisa Ford, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville.
Associated Press writers Brett Barrouquere in Louisville, Mark Sherman in Washington, and Robert H. Reid and Kim Gamel in Baghdad contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Associated Press
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, July 3, 2006; A15
Baghdad, July 2 - Fifteen-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza was afraid, her mother confided in a neighbor.
As pretty as she was young, the girl had attracted the unwelcome attention of U.S. soldiers manning a checkpoint that the girl had to pass through almost daily in their village in the south-central city of Mahmudiyah, her mother told the neighbor.
Abeer told her mother again and again in her last days that the soldiers had made advances toward her, a neighbor, Omar Janabi, said this weekend, recounting a conversation he said he had with the girl's mother, Fakhriyah, on March 10.
Fakhriyah feared that the Americans might come for her daughter at night, at their home. She asked her neighbor if Abeer might sleep at his house, with the women there.
Janabi said he agreed.
Then, "I tried to reassure her, remove some of her fear," Janabi said. "I told her, the Americans would not do such a thing."
Abeer did not live to take up the offer of shelter.
Instead, attackers came to the girl's house the next day, apparently separating Abeer from her mother, father and young sister.
Janabi and others knowledgeable about the incident said they believed that the attackers raped Abeer in another room. Medical officials who handled the bodies also said the girl had been raped, but they did not elaborate.
Before leaving, the attackers fatally shot the four family members -- two of Abeer's brothers had been away at school -- and attempted to set Abeer's body on fire, according to Janabi, another neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity, the mayor of Mahmudiyah and a hospital administrator with knowledge of the case.
The U.S. military said last week that authorities were investigating allegations of a rape and killings in Mahmudiyah by soldiers of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, part of the 4th Infantry Division.
The mayor of Mahmudiyah, Mouyad Fadhil Saif, said Sunday that the case was being investigated by the U.S. military as an alleged atrocity.
Janabi was one of the first people to arrive at the house after the attack, he said Saturday, speaking to a Washington Post special correspondent at the home of local tribal leaders. He said he found Abeer sprawled dead in a corner, her hair and a pillow next to her consumed by fire, and her dress pushed up to her neck.
"I was sure from the first glance that she had been raped," he said.
Despite the reassurances he had given the girl's mother earlier, Janabi said, "I wasn't surprised what had happened, when I found that the suspicion of the mother was correct."
The U.S. military has not identified the victims. U.S. military officials contacted this weekend said they did not know the names of the people involved or most other details of the case, although one military official confirmed that according to preliminary information gathered by investigators, the family lived near a U.S. checkpoint and the killings happened about March 12.
The military official pointed to one discrepancy in the accounts, however. Preliminary information in the military investigation put the age of the alleged rape victim at 20, rather than 15, as reported by her neighbors, officials and hospital records and officials in Mahmudiyah.
U.S. soldiers at the scene initially ascribed the killings to Sunni Arab insurgents active in the area, the U.S. military and local residents said. That puzzled villagers, who knew that the family was Sunni, Janabi said. Other residents assumed the killings were sectarian, with Shiite Muslim militiamen as the likely culprit.
But on June 23, three months after the incident, two soldiers of the 502nd came forward to say that soldiers of the unit were responsible, a U.S. military official said last week. The U.S. military began an investigation the next day, the official said.
Officials said last week that none of the four soldiers under investigation had been detained, although one had been discharged for unrelated reasons.
Family members have given permission for exhumation of Abeer's body, Janabi and the mayor said.
The case is at least the fourth American military investigation announced since March of alleged atrocities by U.S. forces in Iraq.
The rape allegation makes the Mahmudiyah case potentially incendiary in Iraq. Rape is seen as a crime smearing the honor of the family as well as the victim in conservative communities here.
Death certificates viewed Sunday at the Mahmudiyah hospital identified the victims as Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 34, killed by gunshots to her head; Qasim Hamza Raheem, 45, whose head was "smashed" by bullets; Hadeel Qasim Hamza, 7, Abeer's sister, shot; and Abeer, shot in the head. Abeer's body also showed burns, the death certificate noted.
Janabi said U.S. soldiers controlled the scene of the killings for several hours on March 11, telling neighbors that insurgents were responsible. The bodies of the victims were taken to Mahmudiyah hospital by March 12, according to Janabi and an official at the hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On March 13, a man identifying himself as a relative claimed the bodies for burial, the hospital official said. An hour after the man left with the bodies, U.S. soldiers came to the hospital and asked about the bodies, the hospital official said.
The next day, the hospital official said, soldiers scoured the area, trying to find the funeral for the family.
"But they did not find it, simply because the relatives did not do it, because the death includes the rape of one of the family members, which is something shameful in our tradition," the hospital official said.
"The family kept the news a secret, fearing the disgrace," he said. "They thought it was done by militias, not U.S. forces."
Reached by telephone Saturday at his home in Iskandariyah, south of Mahmudiyah, a member of the extended family would not discuss the incident.
"What is the benefit of publishing this story?" said Abeer's uncle, Bassem. "People will read about this crime. And they will forget about it the next day."
Two special correspondents in Mahmudiyah and special correspondent Bassam Sebti in Baghdad contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company