Soldier testifies on `kill them all' order in Iraq

August 03, 2006

TIKRIT, Iraq -- A U.S. soldier testified yesterday that members of his squadron accused of murdering three Iraqis had received orders to kill all the insurgents they encountered during a raid on an island believed to harbor al-Qaida members.

Pfc. Bradley Mason said that orders to "kill all of them" were clear prior to the raid that ended in the deaths of the three male detainees. He was testifying during a hearing in Tikrit to decide whether soldiers will be court-martialed for murder.

The alleged killings May 9 near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, have dealt another blow to the reputation of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and fueled anger against the coalition presence.

U.S. soldiers and Marines have been accused of a string of civilian deaths in Iraq, including the alleged massacre of dozens in Haditha. Another hearing is scheduled this weekend over allegations that five soldiers raped and killed a 14-year-old girl.

Mason said the brigade commander, Col. Michael Steele, told nearly 1,000 soldiers before the raid that the area was considered "hot" and they should be prepared for fire.

"He [Steele] just said that the rules of engagement were that we get to kill all the male insurgents," said Mason, who was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

"Kill all of them," Mason quoted Steele as saying.

The four accused, all members of the 101st Airborne Division, initially said the detainees were killed because they tried to escape, but military prosecutors say they were let loose, then shot.

Mason testified that Spc. William B. Hunsaker threatened him a day after the alleged killings. He said he was accosted three weeks later by Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard and Pfc. Corey R. Clagett as he was on his way to discuss the raid with the Criminal Investigation Division.

Mason said Girouard told him: "If you say anything, I'll kill you."

Girouard, Hunsaker, Clagett and Spc. Juston R. Graber are accused of murder and other offenses in the shooting deaths.

Associated Press

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