Friday, June 30, 2006

5 GIs probed in Iraq family's death - Conflict in Iraq -
Five GIs investigated over killing of Iraqi family
Woman was allegedly raped before she and her family were killed
MSNBC staff and news service reports

Updated: 8:28 a.m. PT June 30, 2006

BEIJI, Iraq - Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly killing a family of four in Iraq, the U.S. military said Friday.

The soldiers allegedly first raped a female member of the family, then burned the body in the March incident, an official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Maj. Gen. James Thurman, commander of coalition troops in Baghdad, ordered the criminal investigation into the alleged killings in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad, the U.S. command said in a statement.

"On June 23, two soldiers reported alleged coalition force involvement in their deaths," the statement said. "A preliminary inquiry ... found sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation into the incident."

The case represents the latest allegations against U.S. soldiers stemming from the deaths of Iraqis. At least 14 U.S. troops have been convicted.

The United States also is investigating allegations that two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. Marines in the western town of Haditha on Nov. 19 in a revenge attack after one of their own died in a roadside bombing.

“The entire investigation will encompass everything that could have happened that evening. We’re not releasing any specifics of an ongoing investigation,” said military spokesman Maj. Todd Breasseale.

“There is no indication what led soldiers to this home. The investigation just cracked open. We’re just beginning to dig into the details.”

Source cites confession

However, a U.S. official close to the investigation said at least one of the soldiers, all assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, has admitted his role and has been arrested. Two soldiers from the same regiment were slain this month when they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near Youssifiyah.

The official said the accused soldiers were from the same platoon as the two slain soldiers, whose bodies were mutilated. He said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one of them to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.

At least four other soldiers have had their weapons taken away and are confined to Forward Operating Base Mahmoudiyah south of Baghdad.

The official said the killings appear to be unrelated to the kidnappings. He said those involved were all below the rank of sergeant. Senior officers were aware of the family’s death but believed it was due to sectarian violence, common in the religiously mixed town, he said.

The killings appeared to have been a “crime of opportunity,” the official said. The soldiers had not been attacked by insurgents but had noticed the woman on previous patrols.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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