Iraqi Medic Describes Carnage

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 7, 2006

BAGHDAD, Aug. 6 -- An Iraqi medic who responded to a home where U.S. soldiers allegedly raped and killed a teenage Iraqi girl and murdered her sister and parents described on Sunday a display of carnage so horrific he said it made him sick for two weeks.

In the opening day of testimony in a military hearing in Baghdad to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a court-martial for five U.S. soldiers, the medic, whose name was withheld for security reasons, testified that he saw smoke when he arrived at the family's home in Mahmudiyah on the afternoon of March 12. Inside, on the floor of the living room by the window, a teenage girl lay dead on her back, her legs spread, her clothes torn off, her body burned from her waist to her head, a single bullet hole under her left eye, he said.

Her mother also lay dead on the floor with bullet wounds in her chest and abdomen, he said.

In another room, the medic found what remained of the girl's father in a pool of blood. "The brain was on the floor and parts of the head were all over the place," the medic said. Next to him was his other daughter, who was about 6years old. It appeared to him as if a bullet had "entered the front of her face and out the back of her head," he said.

With the help of Iraqi soldiers, the medic said, he put the remains of the family in bags and stored them in an air-conditioned ambulance because there was no room at the Mahmudiyah hospital.

The case is one of the most brutal in a series of recent incidents in which U.S. soldiers allegedly killed Iraqis. The sexual nature of the crime has outraged Iraqis, and the killings caused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to call for a review of rules that prevent U.S. troops from being tried in Iraqi courts.

The U.S. military has charged four soldiers from the B Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment -- Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spec. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard -- with rape and murder. A fifth soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement for allegedly failing to report the incident. And a sixth man, former Army private Steven D. Green, who was discharged for a "personality disorder," pleaded not guilty to rape and murder charges in a federal court in Kentucky.

At Sunday's hearing at Camp Liberty, near Baghdad International Airport, defense attorneys questioned the medic's medical training and posed the possibility that the family had already been dead before they were shot. During a cross-examination, the medic admitted he could only assume the family was shot to death, but said, "I believe that's how they were killed, which is what I've told you."

The soldiers' battalion commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, said he received a phone call on June 17 from the company commander, Capt. John Goodwin, informing him of the alleged murders and asking his guidance. At first incredulous, Kunk said, he went to the area south of Baghdad the next morning to begin his investigation.

"Absolutely not, I did not believe that report," he said. "I wanted to get on the ground."

Kunk recalled that Green, one of the alleged ringleaders in the incident, once said, "All Iraqis are bad people."

"I told him that that wasn't true, and that 90 to 95 percent of the Iraqi people are good people and they want the same thing that we have in the United States," Kunk said.

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