The U.S. military said Wednesday 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.
A 1st Cavalry spokesman said investigative hearings had not yet been held in connection with the case. Based on the findings of such proceedings, called Article 32 hearings, commanders decide whether to send cases to a court-martial.
The two accused 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.
The two soldiers charged Wednesday were assigned to Task Force Baghdad, which is responsible for maintaining security in the capital. Their battalion deployed to Iraq in August after training in Kuwait and is based out of Camp Victory, a sprawling military installation near Baghdad International Airport.
The 1st Battalion, whose soldiers are nicknamed "hell-raisers," according to a newsletter posted on an Army Web site, spent their first few weeks in Iraq fixing their vehicles. In August, the soldiers began accompanying other units in the area to "become familiarized with the city and to hear lessons learned to help us patrol the streets," the newsletter said.