- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

The Pentagon yesterday disputed press reports from Iraq that the bodies of two slain U.S. soldiers in Mosul were mutilated by assailants.

Wire-service reports from the scene Sunday quoted Iraqi eyewitnesses as saying the bodies were mutilated. The eyewitnesses told U.S. reporters that the soldiers’ throats were slashed and that teenagers picked up cinder blocks and used them to smash the soldiers’ heads.

But a Pentagon official and a spokesman at coalition headquarters in Baghdad rebutted those accounts yesterday. They said there was no evidence either man’s throat was slashed or of any beatings with rocks or cinder blocks. The official said the cause of death was gunshot wounds.

“There weren’t any additional acts of violence committed against the two soldiers,” a Pentagon official said.

“The soldiers were not cut nor were their throats slashed,” said the allied spokesman. Of rock or cinder-block wounds, the official said, “At this time, we have no indication that this happened.”

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has been held up by the coalition as a model for creating a peaceful postwar Iraq. But Saddam Hussein loyalists have stepped up attacks there in recent weeks, raising fears within the coalition that the insurgency is spreading farther north.

The Associated Press quoted an eyewitness, 19-year-old Younis Mahmoud, as saying: “They lifted a block and hit them with it on the face.”

But the AP dispatch quoted another teenage witness, Bahaa Jassim, as saying the wounds came from gunshots, not stabbings.

“One of the soldiers was shot under the chin, and the bullet came out of his head,” the teenager said. “I saw the hole in his helmet. The other was shot in the throat.”

The two 101st Airborne soldiers were riding in a civilian vehicle between garrisons in daylight when they were shot by gunmen. The vehicle then crashed into a wall.

The bodies were dragged from the vehicle and “stripped of their personal effect,” the coalition spokesman said.

A crowd used rocks to break the vehicle’s back window and then looted it. Army soldiers arrived on the scene and found the two bodies lying near the vehicle.

The Pentagon yesterday identified the two dead soldiers as Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson, 45, of Thomson, Ga.; and Spc. Rel A. Ravago IV, 21, of Glendale, Calif.

The Pentagon said the full account will not be known until the Army concludes an investigation.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, an allied spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters Sunday: “It is our policy that we do not go into the specific details on injuries sustained by soldiers. And just as a matter of good taste, we would suggest that the media does the same.”

Asked whether the soldiers had been shot or stabbed, Gen. Kimmitt said, “We have an ongoing investigation, and we’re not going to get ghoulish about this.”

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