A 21-year-old American soldier — later discharged for a mental disorder — has been charged with raping a 15-year-old girl, then shooting and killing her — along with her mother, father and young sister. Josh White of The Washington Post tells Madeleine Brand about the incident.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, two politicians claim victory as the next president of Mexico.
First, though, another unfolding scandal involving American troops in Iraq. Former U.S. soldier Steven Green has been charged with murder and rape, allegedly committed while serving in Iraq. Green is accused of raping a 15-year-old girl and then shooting and killing her. He is also charged with murdering her mother, father, and 5-year-old sister. At least three other soldiers may be involved.
According to a story in today's Washington Post, before she died the 15-year-old victim was afraid. She had told her mother repeatedly that U.S. soldiers were making advances toward her as she passed through a military checkpoint almost every day.
This investigation is at least the fourth involving the killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. forces. I spoke earlier, with Washington Post reporter Josh White.
Mr. JOSH WHITE (Reporter, The Washington Post): Well, at this point what's interesting is we're hearing one side of it. We're hearing the version from the Iraqi family, through neighbors and through officials on the ground, what had happened back in March.
Now, these allegations didn't really come forward until just recently. Apparently, what had happened, was a couple of soldiers, who may or may not have been actually involved in the event, came forward and told Army officials that this had happened, that they had concerns about it, and that there should probably be an investigation.
My understanding is that this was then launched right into an investigation. The Army officials started looking at it, pretty much immediately. And at this point, the Army is not really putting forward a whole lot of details about what had happened because they're trying to backtrack, they're trying to figure out what had happened.
BRAND: How many Army soldiers are allegedly involved?
Mr. WHITE: Well, we've heard that it may be as many as five. It may be four. In that case, we'd be looking at really a small group of soldiers. And the allegations we've heard to this point is that they may have plotted this, that they may have noticed this girl on previous patrols, and may have gone to this house on purpose.
Now, certainly, an investigation will reveal whether or not that's true. But if so, I mean, these are fairly significant allegations. It's something that the Iraqi people will take very seriously. Something like a rape is really considered an atrocity in that society.
And in the sense, as comparing it to other homicide cases we've heard of, this could, in some ways, garner more attention, more outrage in Iraq, than some of the other cases.
BRAND: And on top of the rape and the deaths of this victim and her family, there was also apparently an attempt to burn her body?
Mr. WHITE: Well, again, that's what we're hearing. The medical records indicate that the victim was burned. We've heard from our reporters in Iraq, who've been covering this very closely, said that people reported, that possibly the victim's hair and a pillow, found by her body, were burned.
The Associated Press has reported that the soldiers may have used some sort of a flammable liquid to try to burn the body, burn the house, to cover up the alleged crimes.
You know, certainly we'll learn more about this as we go forward. But if that is the case, you know, certainly, again, it just adds to the horror of what may have happened.
BRAND: And initially, I understand, that this was ascribed to insurgents, who may have done this.
Mr. WHITE: Yes. The U.S. troops apparently said that Sunni insurgents in the area - blamed the deaths, again, of about four family members, the girl and her relatives, to insurgent activity. People on the ground are skeptical of that because this family, apparently, was Sunni, and that that would be unusual for such type of violence.
BRAND: Well, Josh, catch us up with these other investigations of alleged atrocities by U.S. forces.
Mr. WHITE: Well, sure. I mean, the two major ones that are of significant discussion recently are the cases in Hamdaniya and the case in Haditha. They're two very different cases, in the sense that what actually happened on the ground, arose from very different circumstances.
With the Hamdaniya case, you've got allegations that these Marines targeted this man and then executed him, and their claims that they were on a mission.
In Haditha, you've got a case where a group of Marines were on a mission, came under attack, and then may have gone a bit overboard in the way in which they reacted.
This third case is, again, very different. You've got a group of soldiers who, if the allegations hold up, targeted this woman, went after her, physically and violently attacked her and then killed the witnesses to cover it up.
Now again, we have not heard the other side of the story in this case. So, again, these are allegations. But if true, it's a very different case than the other two. Still, again, an atrocity.
BRAND: Josh White is a reporter for The Washington Post. Thank you, Josh.
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Ex-Soldier Charged With Raping Iraqi, Killing Family
Charlotte, N.C. (AP) — Federal prosecutors accused a former U.S. soldier Monday of raping and murdering a young Iraqi woman and gunning down her family, all of whose bodies were found burned in an apparent cover-up.
Steven D. Green, a 21-year-old former Army private first class, who was recently discharged because of a "personality disorder," appeared Monday in a federal magistrate's courtroom in Charlotte.
The murder and rape charges against him grew out of a military investigation involving as many as five soldiers in the alleged rape and killing of a young woman in Mahmoudiya. Three of the woman's relatives were also killed in the incident — one of them a girl believed to be about 5.
Prosecutors said that Green and others entered the home of a family of Iraqi civilians, where Green shot the three relatives, then he and another soldier raped the woman and killed her. According to an accompanying affidavit, photos taken by Army investigators in March showed a burned body of "what appears to be a woman with blankets thrown over her upper torso."
FBI agents arrested Green on Friday in Marion, N.C. He is being held in Charlotte without bond pending a transfer to Louisville, Ky.
The case is being handled by federal prosecutors there because Green, who served 11 months with the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., is no longer in the military. According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, he was given an honorable discharge "before this incident came to light. Green was discharged due to a personality disorder."
He faces a possible death sentence if convicted of murder.
In Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Joseph Breasseale, said "at this time" no other charges have been filed in the Mahmoudiya case.
The mayor of Mahmoudiya, Mouayad Fadhil, said Monday that Iraqi authorities had started their own investigation. He said U.S. Army officers were also seeking permission to exhume one of the bodies; the U.S. military declined to comment on the report because the investigation is ongoing.
The age of the rape victim was also unclear. U.S. officials close to the case have described her as a young woman, and FBI documents estimated her age at 25, but a neighbor of the family said the rape victim was 14 and her sister was 10.
The affidavit filed in Green's case by FBI special agent Gregor J. Ahlers of Louisville said Green and three other soldiers from the 101st's 502nd Infantry Regiment were working a traffic checkpoint in Mahmoudiya on March 12 when they conspired to rape a woman who lived nearby.
According to the affidavit's account, the soldiers changed their clothes before going to the woman's residence to avoid detection. Once there, the affidavit said, Green took three members of the family — an adult male and female, and a girl estimated to be 5 years old — into a bedroom, after which shots were heard from inside.
"Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone, 'I just killed them. All are dead,'" the affidavit said.
The affidavit is based on interviews conducted by the FBI and investigators at Fort Campbell with three unidentified soldiers assigned to Green's platoon. One of the soldiers said he witnessed another soldier and Green rape the woman.
"After the rape, (the soldier) witnessed Green shoot the woman in the head two to three times," the affidavit said.
Ahlers said in the affidavit that he also reviewed photos taken by Army investigators in Iraq of bodies found inside a burned house, including photos of an Iraqi man, woman and young girl who all appear to have died of gunshot wounds. He said he also reviewed a photo of a burned body of "what appears to be a woman with blankets thrown over her upper torso."
An official familiar with details of the investigation in Iraq has told The Associated Press that a flammable liquid was used to burn the rape victim's body in a cover-up attempt. U.S. officials have said they believed the victims were killed in sectarian violence.
On Friday, the U.S. military acknowledged that Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged slaying of a family in Mahmoudiya.
Four members of the 502nd have had their weapons taken away and were confined to a U.S. base near Mahmoudiya, officials said.
The suspects belong to the same unit as two soldiers kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad last month, a military official said on condition of anonymity because the case was under way.
The military has said that one and possibly both of the slain soldiers were tortured and beheaded. The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one member of the platoon to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.
According to the affidavit filed Monday, investigators learned of the March 12 attack during a combat stress debriefing that occurred around June 20.
Green will have a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing on July 10 in Charlotte, and will then be brought to Louisville, said Marisa Ford, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville.