By Jonathan Finer and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, July 10, 2006
BAGHDAD, July 9 -- Military investigators brought charges against four more American soldiers accused of taking part in the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the killing of three members of her family, the U.S. military said Sunday.
The four active-duty soldiers from the Army's 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division are accused of conspiring with Steven D. Green, a former private, who was charged with rape and murder in federal court earlier this month.
A fifth soldier from the unit, who was not accused of direct involvement in the March 12 attack in the southern town of Mahmudiyah, was charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the incident, the military said in a statement. It did not name the five soldiers.
Green was honorably discharged with a "personality disorder" after the attack was carried out but before it came to light. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Louisville.
According to military officials and court documents, the soldiers entered the family's home, took the girl to another room and raped her. They then reportedly shot her and killed her mother, father and 7-year-old sister and tried to set a fire to cover up the crimes. The killings were initially reported as an insurgent attack.
Court documents said the soldiers had previously seen the girl from a roadside checkpoint they manned near the home, and a neighbor said her family had grown concerned that she could become a target.
The incident was the latest in a series of recent accusations against U.S. forces involving unarmed Iraqi civilians, including the alleged shooting deaths of 24 people in the western town of Haditha in November. The military initially reported those deaths as having been caused by a roadside bomb attack that also killed a Marine.
But a Time magazine report in March disclosed that the civilians died of gunshot wounds and that U.S. forces were responsible.
Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the No. 2 officer in Iraq who oversaw the investigation of the Haditha killings, concluded recently that Marine leadership repeatedly failed in pre-deployment training, in the tone set by commanders and in how information was reported up the chain of command, defense officials said. Chiarelli found that commanders were negligent in how they responded to conflicting reports they received from units about the Haditha killings.
In June, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with murder and other crimes related to the shooting death of a crippled man in Hamdaniyah, a village west of Baghdad. Residents there said the soldiers planted a rifle and a shovel near the victim's body to make it appear as though he had been burying roadside bombs.
Later in June, three soldiers were charged with killing three Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody and threatening to kill another soldier if he told anyone what had happened.
But the Mahmudiyah incident has provoked a particularly strong reaction from the Iraqi government because of the incendiary nature of the alleged crimes.
In recent days, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and several other Iraqi politicians have called for a review of a regulation that precludes U.S. forces from facing prosecution in Iraqi courts. Maliki said the immunity -- implemented by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq after the 2003 invasion -- has encouraged crimes against Iraqis.
Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks in Washington contributed to this report.