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Body of 'US soldiers' rape victim' made medic ill

Oliver Poole / London Telegraph | August 7 2006

An Iraqi army medic told a United States military hearing yesterday that he was sick for days after finding the naked and burned body of a 14-year-old girl, allegedly raped and murdered by US soldiers.

The doctor was testifying on the first day of a hearing to determine whether five soldiers will face court martial for the rape and murder on March 12 of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the killing of her parents and sister.

The medic, whose name was withheld for security reasons, had been called to a house in the hardline Sunni town of Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad. He said he found the girl naked, her torso and head burned. She had a bullet wound under one eye.

"I was feeling very bad," he said. "I was sick for almost two weeks."

He found Abeer's five-year-old sister, Hadeel, in another room. A bullet had blown the back of her head out. Their parents had also been shot.

The case has caused outrage in Iraq, and the hearing follows an investigation into one of the most disturbing of several allegations of discipline collapsing in the US military and its servicemen killing Iraqi civilians. If court-martialled and found guilty, the accused could face the death penalty.

Prosecutors say a squad from the 502nd Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, drank alcohol heavily before abandoning a checkpoint, changing clothes and entering the victim's house nearby.

Four soldiers - Sgt Paul Cortez, Specialist James Barker, Pte Jesse Spielman and Pte Bryan Howard - are charged with conspiracy to rape and murder. A fifth, Sgt Anthony Yribe, is charged with failing to report the attack. A sixth man, former Pte Steven Green, faces rape and murder charges in a civilian court. He was discharged from the military in May after a psychiatric evaluation.

The Baghdad hearing is expected to last several days. Part of it will be held in private amid concern for witnesses' safety if they are seen to be collaborating with the US military.

Details of the prosecution case contained in military papers provide new details that, if proved true, would make the crime even more horrific and worrying than it appeared when it first became public in June.

Then, it was alleged that the group had been led astray by Green, who was accused of being the leading party to the rape, which only one other of the accused had allegedly been involved in.

Now, at least three of the soldiers are accused of raping the girl and then setting fire to her body.

The men's squad leader and overseeing platoon commander had been on leave at the time, and the men had been stationed at an isolated checkpoint for more than 30 days, rather than the regulation three to five days.

This had allowed them to buy alcohol from local traders without supervision.

The hearing continues.

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