A former American soldier recently returned from fighting in Iraq has been charged in a court in North Carolina in connection with the alleged rape of an Iraqi woman in March, as well as the murder of her and three members of her family.
The charge against 21-year-old Steven Green, a former first class private who was recently discharged from the army, at a court in Charlotte yesterday, marks the latest development in the fourth recent case of American soldiers accused of committing atrocities against Iraqi civilians.
American officials acknowledged last week that a formal investigation had been opened into the affair, which centres on allegations that up to five US soldiers entered a home in the city of Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, on 12 March and left after the woman had been raped and she and her mother, father and younger sister had all been killed.
The Washington Post identified the rape victim yesterday as Abeer Qasim Hamza, and said she was 15 years old at the time.
A neighbour of the family told the newspaper that the girl's mother had expressed concern to him that her daughter was at risk from US soldiers at a nearby checkpoint. "I tried to reassure her, remove some of her fear," the neighbour, Omar Janabi, said. "I told her, the Americans would not do such a thing."
Prosecutors said that Mr Green was among the soldiers who entered the family's home and that he and others raped the girl and killed her and the other victims. He was remanded without bail and will be transferred to Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne, in which he used to serve. If the suspects are found guilty in a military tribunal, they may face the death penalty.
In Iraq, meanwhile, four members of the 502nd Infantry Regiment have had their weapons taken away and have been confined to their base near Mahmudiya, also in connection with the investigation.
It appears that at least one member of the 502nd came forward on 22 June and told his superiors about the killings. He may have felt compelled to reveal the truth after the kidnapping, torture and beheading of two US soldiers last month by insurgents - both men had also been serving with the 502nd Regiment.Reuse content