New charges filed in Iraq rape and killing

Four US soldiers have been charged with rape and murder and a fifth with dereliction of duty in the alleged rape-slaying of a young Iraqi woman and the killings of her relatives in Mahmoudiya, the military said on Sunday.

The five were accused on Saturday following an investigation into allegations that American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division raped the teenager and killed her and three relatives at her home south of Baghdad.

Ex-soldier Steven D Green was arrested last week in North Carolina and has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder.

The US statement said the five soldiers, who are still on active duty, will face an Article 32 investigation, similar to a grand jury hearing in civilian law. The Article 32 proceeding will determine whether there is enough evidence to place them on trial.

One of the soldiers was charged with failing to report the attack but is not believed to have participated in it directly, the statement said.

The names of the soldiers were not released.

The March 12 attack on the family was among the worst in a series of cases of US troops accused of killing and abusing Iraqi civilians.

US officials are concerned that the alleged rape-slaying will strain relations with the new US-backed government and increase calls for changes in the agreement that exempts American soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded an independent investigation into the case, which followed a series of allegations that US troops killed and mistreated Iraqi civilians.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in Green’s case, Green and at least two others targeted the teenager and her family for a week before the attack, which was not revealed until witnesses came forward in late June.

The soldiers drank alcohol, abandoned their checkpoint, changed clothes to avoid detection and headed to the victims’ house, about 200 metres from a US military checkpoint in the so-called “Triangle of Death”, a Sunni Arab area south of Baghdad known for its violence, the affidavit said.

There have been conflicting accounts about the rape victim’s age. The US military initially said she was 20. But based on interviews and records, it now believes she was between 14 and 20, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Friday.

Her uncle Ahmed Taha told The Associated Press in Mahmoudiya that she was 16.

Green is accused of raping the woman and killing her and three relatives – an adult male and female and a girl estimated to be five years old. An official familiar with the investigation said he set fire to the rape victim’s body in an apparent cover-up attempt.

Iraqi authorities identified the rape victim as Abeer Qassim Hamza. The other victims were her father, Qassim Hamza; her mother, Fikhriya Taha; and her sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza.

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