Baghdad violence leaves 24 dead

Stepped-up patrols fail to restore order

August 09, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Five homemade bombs and a bank robbery left 24 people dead in Baghdad yesterday as the level of violence here remained undiminished despite a buildup of U.S. and Iraqi troops meant to restore a sense of order.

The increased U.S. and Iraqi army patrols in Baghdad yesterday seemed to have little effect on the daily violence.

At 10:50 a.m., two explosions in a market in central Baghdad killed 10 people and wounded 69 others, an Interior Ministry official said. Minutes later, in the Adhamiya section of the city, gunmen burst into the Rashid Bank, killed three guards and two bank employees and stole 7 million Iraqi dinars, or about $5,000, the official said.

Earlier yesterday morning, three apparently coordinated explosions near the Interior Ministry, in the center of Baghdad, killed nine people and wounded eight others, including three policemen, said the ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to a reporter.

Also yesterday, several witnesses testified at the military hearing for four soldiers charged with raping a 14-year-old girl and then killing her and her family in March.

The witnesses, members of the soldiers' unit - Company B of the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division - were called by defense lawyers to describe the extreme conditions the soldiers had endured in their patrols south of Baghdad, and the low morale and combat stress that followed.

The hearing, known as an Article 32, mixes elements of a grand jury proceeding and a jury trial - including revealing evidence, witness testimony and cross-examination by defense lawyers - and is the means by which a presiding officer determines whether enough evidence exists to recommend a court-martial, nonjudicial punishment or the dismissal of charges.

The four soldiers accused of killing the family, in Mahmoudiya, a volatile town south of Baghdad, are Spc. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard and Sgt. Paul E. Cortez.

In addition to rape and murder, each is also charged with arson; after raping the girl, military prosecutors said, the four burned her body with kerosene to conceal evidence.

A fifth soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, who is not said to have been present at the rape and killings, is charged with dereliction of duty, for failing to report the crimes.

Several soldiers testified on Sunday and Monday that a former member of Company B, Steven D. Green, thought up the plan to attack the family and rape the girl, and persuaded the other four during card games and while driving golf balls to go along with it.

Green, whom the Army allowed to enlist on "moral waivers" because he had a criminal record for minor offenses, was discharged as a private in May after a psychiatric evaluation. He is in custody in Kentucky, where he faces federal rape and murder charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

In testimony yesterday, Sgt. Daniel Carrick, a member of the accused soldiers' platoon, described how patrolling around Mahmoudiya, a tense region south of Baghdad known as the "triangle of death," turned many soldiers bitter, particularly Green. "Green had hatred for a lot of people in general," Carrick said.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Fenlason testified about a conversation with Green "regarding his lack of concern or caring for Iraqi life versus American soldiers' life."

The military announced that four U.S. service members were killed on Sunday. Three were killed by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad. The fourth died in fighting in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said.

In the past week, five Iraqi journalists from various news organizations based here were fatally shot, said a member of an Iraqi journalists group that tracks attacks on reporters.

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