July 3, 2006

US soldier charged with rape, murder in Iraq

By Alastair Macdonald

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An American was charged on Monday with
raping and murdering an Iraqi teenager after killing her
parents and young sister while serving as a soldier in Iraq.

Three other troops may have been part of the crime in

Revealed last week and denounced by clerics as showing the
"real, ugly face of America," the case could be particularly
damaging to the U.S. image in Iraq's conservative Muslim
society even after several other murder cases in the past few

Discharged soldier Steven Green, 21, appeared in court in
Charlotte, North Carolina, on a charge from a federal
prosecutor in Kentucky that he went with three others to a
house near Mahmudiya, just south of Baghdad, to rape a woman

Green, who faces the death penalty, shot dead a man, woman
and girl then raped another woman and killed her, the U.S.
attorney said in a statement. Court documents said he had since
been discharged from the army due to a "personality disorder."

Mahmudiya's mayor and other local officials named the
family and said Abeer Qasim Hamza was 16 when she was raped and
killed, although U.S. investigators have the victim's age as
20. U.S. soldiers first put the family's killing down to

The attackers, who may have manned a nearby checkpoint,
then burned the bodies, Mayor Muayyad Fadhil told Reuters:
"They were found killed and burned on the morning of March 12."

He said Abeer's sister Hadeel was aged 10 when she died.

Hospital director Dawood al-Taie said his morgue received
four burned bodies and briefly showed their death certificates:
"Gunshot to the head and chest. Face unrecognizable due to
burns," read the document for Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi.

Taie said he had no record that evidence of rape was found.


U.S. officials have given few details beyond saying that
the four dead were all related and that one was a child. The
troops under suspicion are from the 502nd Infantry Regiment,
part of the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell,

Slightly inconsistent versions of events are now emerging
from local people in a violent area dubbed the "triangle of
death." Most residents and officials agree the killings
happened in a settlement 7 km (4 miles) from Mahmudiya and say
the family were Sunni Muslims from the powerful Janabi tribe.

The accusations of rape, a taboo subject among rural Iraqi
Muslims, may have contributed to a reluctance to publicize the
killings -- few Iraqi media have given coverage to the case.

But it also makes the case explosive for public opinion,
even after a string of other charges being brought against U.S.
troops as commanders crack down on misconduct toward civilians.

The Sunni Muslim Clerics Association said on Sunday the
Mahmudiya case revealed "the real, ugly face of America."

Mayor Fadhil acknowledged it was a "dangerous subject."

Anxious not to create new enemies and to leave behind a
friendly Iraq when troops withdraw, U.S. commanders have issued
orders to tighten up procedures on dealing with civilians.

Already tarnished by the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in
2004, revelations in March of inquiries into the killing of 24
people at Haditha risk further damaging the U.S. image in Iraq.

Last month, 12 troops were charged with murder in two other
cases, more than doubling the number of such charges in the

The Washington Post, which put the daughters' ages at 15
and 7, quoted neighbor Omar Janabi as saying Abeer Qasim's
mother told him on March 10 the young woman had complained
about advances made toward her by U.S. soldiers at a nearby

Janabi told the paper he was among the first to arrive at
the house after an attack on March 11. 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.

The inquiry was launched after two soldiers from the 502nd
Infantry Regiment came forward late last month, just after two
men from the unit were kidnapped and killed near Mahmudiya.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles and Kristin
Roberts in Washington and a Reuters reporter in Mahmudiya)