WASHINGTON—The U.S. military on Monday identified the five soldiers who've been charged with raping an Iraqi teenager and murdering her, her parents and 6-year-old sister as two sergeants, a specialist and two privates.
Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spc. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard were charged with premeditated murder, rape and obstruction of justice in the March 12 attack in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad. Cortez, Barker and Spielman also were charged with consuming alcohol in violation of U.S. military orders in Iraq, housebreaking and arson.
Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe of Hailey, Idaho, was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement for his failure to report the rape and killings, but he's not alleged to have been a direct participant, the U.S. military said in a statement from Baghdad. The military announced Sunday that it had charged the five men, but didn't release their identities until Monday.
The military didn't release their ages and hometowns, and Maj. William Willhoite, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said it was unknown when further details would be provided. All the soldiers are from the 101st Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.
A former member of the unit, Steven D. Green, 21, of Denver City, Texas, pleaded not guilty in the case last week in federal court in Louisville, Ky., to four counts of murder and one count of rape.
Green was sent home from Iraq about a month after the rape and killings and was discharged from the Army in May because of a personality disorder. He's been charged as a civilian because the military no longer has jurisdiction over him, according to military officials.
The allegations in the case are among the most heinous involving U.S. troops in the past three years of war in Iraq. According to a federal affidavit, Green and several other soldiers went to the rape victim's home, where he herded her parents and sister into a room and shot them to death with an AK-47 rifle. He and at least one other soldier then raped the girl and shot her several times in the head, the indictment charges. They set her body afire in an effort to conceal the crime and blamed it on insurgents, it says.
At least 23 U.S. servicemen have been charged with murdering Iraqi civilians and prisoners in recent weeks as military commanders in Iraq have vowed to crack down on allegations of wrongdoing by American troops.
The tougher line comes as the mounting allegations of unlawful killings and other crimes have strained relations between the U.S. military and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who's complained publicly about what he sees as reckless misbehavior by American forces and has demanded independent investigations into several cases.
Al-Maliki also has said he wants to review a 2004 provision signed into law by former U.S. administrator Paul Bremer that says American forces who are accused of committing crimes against Iraqis will be tried under U.S. military law instead of in Iraqi courts.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday that a new "status of forces" agreement probably would be worked out with the Iraqi government but any new provisions regarding jurisdiction over U.S. forces remained to be decided.
"In any status of forces agreement what you want to ensure is that the rights of service members are going to be protected and that anything in terms of misconduct that might take place is adjudicated in a fair manner," Whitman said.
The United States has status of forces agreements with Japan and South Korea in which American troops are subject to the jurisdiction of local law.
Murder charges involving Iraqi civilians or prisoners have been brought against U.S. troops in at least six investigations since mid-June, including one involving four other members of the 101st Airborne Division. A group of Marines is under investigation in connection with allegations that they killed up to 24 Iraqi civilians last November in Haditha.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.