Drunken troops 'took turns' to rape Iraqi girl

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The Independent Online

US soldiers accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl drank alcohol and played golf before the attack, and one of them grilled chicken wings afterwards, an investigator told an American military hearing yesterday.

Benjamin Bierce said that he interviewed one of the accused, Specialist James Barker, on 30 June, about the alleged assault on 12 March. Mr Bierce was testifying on the second day of the hearing to determine whether five US soldiers must stand trial for the rape and killing of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the killing of her parents and five-year-old sister in the town of Mahmoudiya, one of the most violent areas in Iraq.

The rape and murders are among the worst in a series of cases of alleged misconduct by American service personnel that have tarnished the American military. US soldiers' conduct has come under the spotlight over a string of similar cases.

Specialist Barker said he and Sgt Paul Cortez took it in turns to rape the girl, whose body was then doused in kerosene and set alight. Specialist Barker is accused along with Sgt Cortez, Pte Jesse Spielman and Pte Bryan Howard of rape and murder. Another soldier, Sgt Anthony Yribe, is accused of failing to report the attack, but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

Former Pte Steven Green was discharged from the US Army for a "personality disorder" after the incident and was arrested in North Carolina in June on rape and murder charges. He has pleaded not guilty in a federal court and is being held without bond.

According to Specialist Barker's sworn statement cited by Mr Bierce, Pte Green not only raped the girl but also shot her and her family members after telling his comrades repeatedly that he wanted to kill some Iraqis.

Mr Bierce said that on the day of the attack, Specialist Barker, Sgt Cortez, Pte Spielman and Pte Green had been playing cards and drinking Iraqi whiskey mixed with an energy drink. Afterwards, they practised hitting golf balls, Mr Bierce quoted Specialist Barker as saying in his statement.

The case continues.

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