- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi army medic described for a U.S. military hearing yesterday the discovery of the naked and burned body of a 14-year-old girl who was said to have been raped and killed by American soldiers south of Baghdad.

Elsewhere yesterday, a suicide bombing at a funeral in Saddam Hussein’s hometown killed at least 10 persons and wounded 18, police said. Sixteen more died in political or sectarian violence elsewhere in Iraq.

Also yesterday, several U.S. Marines were wounded and a few vehicles were destroyed by a suicide car bombing in Anbar province, the U.S. military said without providing details. Iraqi police said the attack was in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad.

The attack on the mourners occurred about 8:15 p.m. in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. The bomber mingled among the crowd in a funeral hall and detonated an explosive belt, police said.

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

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

Four soldiers — Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spc. 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 said 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. Mr. Green, who was discharged from the Army for a “personality disorder,” has pleaded not guilty in federal court and is being held without bail.

The commander of the soldiers’ battalion in the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, testified yesterday that he recalled hearing Mr. Green say that “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,” Col. 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.

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