More U.S. Soldiers Charged in Iraq Rape, Murder

Four American soldiers have been arrested for allegedly participating in the rape and murder of a young Iraqi and her family in March. The charges follow the earlier arrest of Stephen Green, discharged from the Army for a personality disorder, for the same incident.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep, good morning.

More Americans are being called to account for what they allegedly did in Iraq. Four more soldiers face charges for the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the murders of three relatives. A fifth is accused of dereliction of duty.

This is just one of a number of criminal investigations involving the conduct of U.S. troops.

NPR Pentagon Correspondent Tom Bowman has been tracking the investigations. Tom, good morning.

TOM BOWMAN reporting:

Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Now, let's talk about this incident in Mahmoudiya. We've already heard of the charges against Steven Green. He's accused of pulling the trigger when this family was killed near a checkpoint. What did these other men who've now been charged allegedly do, as far as you can tell?

BOWMAN: Well, we have charges against three others for rape and murder, and a fourth for dereliction of duty for not - for failing to report the offenses. And what we understand is this all happened at a checkpoint, that the four of them went down to the house, and that Green shot some of the folks in the house. It was an Iraqi female, her parents, and five-year-old sister. We believe that the others took part in the rape and the murder, and again, this final one was - failed to report the offenses.

INSKEEP: Is it normal in the military justice system that everybody involved within an incident would be charged with murder, even though most likely only one would have pulled the trigger?

BOWMAN: Well, it depends. We saw in the Hamandiya case that seven marines and a Navy medic were charged with murder and kidnapping in that case. So there are instances where they would charge everyone, and maybe not everyone pulled the trigger.

INSKEEP: Tom, I referred to the rape victim as an Iraqi girl. Did I use the right term?

BOWMAN: Well, I'm using the term Iraqi female, because her age appears to be in dispute. Army investigators have a birth certificate showing her at age 14. Neighbors say she was 15. But commanders and military officials refer to her either as an adult female or a young woman. So, again, her age is in dispute.

INSKEEP: Mmm. And obviously something that could add to the controversy there. Now, at the same time, Tom Bowman, I know you're following the investigation in Haditha, where as many as two-dozen civilians were allegedly killed by Marines. There's an investigation ongoing - more than one investigation - but a report expected out soon. What are you expecting to see?

BOWMAN: Right. Well, there's an ongoing criminal investigation. That's expected to be wrapped up later this summer. But a two-star army general - Eldon Bargewell - has completed his report, and we're expecting to see the executive summary of that report later in the week. Now, NPR has already reported that marine officers are expected to be criticized in this report, and the New York Times has said that the top marine general - Major General Richard Huck - will also be criticized in this report.

And there're really two main questions here. The initial report by marines was that one marine was killed in his Humvee, an additional 15 Iraqi civilians were killed - which raises the question, how could this marine have been in his Humvee and killed, and then an additional 15 Iraqis were killed? It just didn't make any sense. And what Bargewell will say is that they should have looked harder into this question. The other issue is that the Marines paid up $38,000 in condolence payments to the families here. So the question is, if you're saying the insurgents killed these folks, why were the Marines making these payments? So those are two main questions.

INSKEEP: When we hear about one investigation after another, many of us have to wonder why all this is coming to light now.

BOWMAN: Well, it's hard to say if there's an increase in the number of alleged incidents involving soldiers or Marines, or if they're just more aggressive in investigating this. What we do know is that Lt. Gen. Peter Corelli, who runs the day to day operations in Iraq, is very concerned about the deaths of innocent Iraqis. He's very concerned about fighting this in a classic counter-insurgency way, which is to gain the trust of the Iraqi population, get information on the bad guys, and that's how you end an insurgency. You don't end an insurgency by using heavy-handed tactics - kicking doors in, shooting indiscriminately and using bombs.

So Corelli, I would say again, is - he understands how to fight the insurgency and is much more adept than maybe some of his predecessors.

INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.

BOWMAN: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman.

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