Iraqi medic describes scene of rape and slaying of family
He testified on the first day of a hearing to decide if 5 soldiers must stand trial.
By Ryan Lenz
Associated Press

BAGHDAD - An Iraqi army medic yesterday described the horrific scene that confronted him when he found the naked and burned body of a 14-year-old girl allegedly raped and murdered by U.S. soldiers south of Baghdad

The medic testified on the opening day of a hearing to determine whether five U.S. soldiers must stand trial in the March 12 rape-slaying of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the killing of her parents and sister in the town of Mahmoudiyah.

It is among the worst in a series of cases of alleged killings of civilians and other abuses by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The medic, whose name was withheld for security reasons, testified he was the first responder to enter the house and found the girl sprawled naked in the house, her torso and head burned by flames. She had a single bullet wound under her left eye, he said.

He said he found Abeer's 5-year-old sister, Hadeel, in an adjacent room dead from a bullet wound in the head. The children's father, Qassim, and mother, Fikhriya, suffered similar deaths, he said. The mother's abdomen and chest were riddled with bullets, he added.

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

He told the hearing that because Mahmoudiyah's hospital did not have enough space to store the bodies, they were kept in an air-conditioned ambulance overnight, then buried the following day.

Four soldiers - Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spec. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard - have been accused of rape and murder and could face the death penalty. A fifth, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is accused of failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

A former private, Steven D. Green, was arrested in North Carolina in June on rape and murder charges in the case. Green, who was discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder," has pleaded not guilty in federal court and is being held without bond.

The commander of the soldiers' battalion in the 502d Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, testified yesterday that he recalled hearing Green say "all Iraqis are bad people."

"I told him that that wasn't true and that 90 to 95 percent of the Iraqi people are good people, and they want the same thing that we have in the United States," Kunk said.

The proceeding that opened yesterday is referred to as an Article 32 hearing and is the military equivalent of a grand jury session. It is expected to last several days, and parts will be held in secret.

The medic was among three Iraqi witnesses to testify yesterday. Reporters were not permitted to hear the first two witnesses but were allowed back in the hearing room when the medic took the stand.

Kunk, the battalion commander, said he was told about possible U.S. involvement in the alleged murders and rape on June 19. He said he questioned Barker and Howard the next day, and both denied that any coalition soldiers were involved.

U.S. soldiers' conduct has come under the spotlight over a string of similar cases.

Four soldiers from another regiment in the 101st Airborne have been accused of killing three Iraqi detainees in Samarra three months ago. The Article 32 hearing in that case ended Friday in Tikrit, but no decision on a trial was announced.

In another case, Marine Corps and Navy prosecutors are reviewing evidence to determine whether to recommend criminal charges against Marines accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November.

On Other Fronts

A suicide bomber blew himself up among mourners at a funeral in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, yesterday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 18, police said.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed late yesterday in a roadside bombing southwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. No further details were released. The military also said that several U.S. Marines were wounded and a few vehicles were destroyed by a suicide car bombing in Anbar province.

Authorities in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, yesterday lifted a partial curfew that was imposed two days earlier in the eastern part of the city after police repulsed a series of insurgent attacks in which a police colonel was killed. The Defense Ministry said security forces had arrested 62 people in a crackdown across northern Iraq after the street battles.

Clashes broke outlate yesterday in Baghdad between Shiite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers near Hamza Square on the edge of the Sadr City neighborhood, police said. Two militiamen were killed and five combatants were wounded, including two Iraqi soldiers, police said.

Gunmen ambushed a police patrol in south Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding five others, police said.

In Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a convoy of Iraqi trucks, killing two drivers and setting their vehicles on fire.

Gunmen in Fallujah killed a Sunni preacher, Sheikh Ali Hussein al-Jumaili, when he resisted what appeared to have been a kidnap attempt, police said.

Police foundthe bodies of five men in Baghdad and one in the southeastern city of Amarah. All had been shot.

A U.S. militarystatement said coalition forces killed one man during a raid north of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad.

In the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniyah, security forces fired warning shots to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who burned tires and blocked roads to protest high fuel prices and poor living conditions. Three people were injured in the protest in the town of Chamchamal.
Associated Press