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Iraqi dead on wedding day

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    Mercy and Murder at Issue in Iraq Death: Alban, 29, a boyish-faced sergeant who joined the Army in 1997, retrieved an M-231 assault rifle and fired at the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2004
      Mercy and Murder at Issue in Iraq Death:

      Alban, 29, a boyish-faced sergeant who joined the Army in 1997,
      retrieved an M-231 assault rifle and fired at the wounded man.
      Seconds later, another soldier, Staff Sgt. Johnny Horne Jr., 30, of
      Winston-Salem, N.C., grabbed an M-16 rifle and also shot the victim.

      Two U.S. soldiers face charges after taking life of injured youth.
      They say he was already gone.

      By Edmund Sanders
      Times Staff Writer

      11/05/04 " Los Angeles Times " -- BAGHDAD — As a U.S. Army patrol
      rolled into Sadr City one night in August, soldiers received a tip
      that militants in dump trucks were planting roadside bombs.

      American troops had been clashing regularly with Al Mahdi militiamen
      in the restive Baghdad slum. So when Staff Sgt. Cardenas Alban of
      Carson saw an object fall from a garbage truck in the distance, his
      company took positions around the vehicle and unleashed a barrage of
      fire from rifles and a 25-millimeter cannon atop a Bradley fighting
      vehicle. The truck exploded in flames.

      As soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment,
      approached the burning vehicle, they did not find insurgents. The
      victims were mainly teenagers, hired to work the late shift picking
      up trash for about $5 a night, witnesses said.

      Medics scrambled to treat the half-dozen people strewn around the
      scene. A dispute broke out among a handful of soldiers standing over
      one severely wounded young man who was moaning in pain. An uninjured
      Iraqi claiming to be a relative pleaded in broken English for
      soldiers to help the victim.

      But to the horror of bystanders, Alban, 29, a boyish-faced sergeant
      who joined the Army in 1997, retrieved an M-231 assault rifle and
      fired at the wounded man.

      Seconds later, another soldier, Staff Sgt. Johnny Horne Jr., 30, of
      Winston-Salem, N.C., grabbed an M-16 rifle and also shot the victim.

      The killing might have been forgotten but for a U.S. soldier who
      days later slipped an anonymous note under the door of the unit's
      commander, Capt. Robert Humphries, alleging that "soldiers had
      committed serious crimes that needed to be looked at."

      U.S. officials have since characterized the shooting as a "mercy
      killing," citing statements by Alban and Horne that they shot the
      wounded Iraqi "to put him out of his misery."

      Military attorneys, however, are calling it premeditated murder and
      have charged the two sergeants, saying the victim's suffering was no
      excuse for the soldiers' actions.

      "I have no doubt that's why they did it," said Capt. John Maloney,
      one of the military attorneys prosecuting the case.

      "But it still constitutes murder."

      Military attorneys in Baghdad said they were unaware of any legal
      precedent justifying "mercy killing" in a war zone, though such
      circumstances could be considered during sentencing.

      Iraqis who witnessed the Aug. 18 shooting said that rather than
      provide medical help to an injured civilian, the soldiers treated
      the Iraqi as if he were an animal struck by a car.

      "We are not sheep," said Emad Raheem, 40, who said he was the driver
      of the dump truck. "We are human beings."

      Seven Iraqis were killed in the attack, including the one who was
      shot, military officials said. Eight others were wounded.

      Alban and Horne — both on their second tour in Iraq — and their
      attorneys declined to comment. In statements to military
      investigators, both acknowledged shooting the Iraqi but have not
      entered formal pleas. They are facing Article 32 hearings in
      Baghdad, which will determine whether there is enough evidence to
      begin court-martial proceedings. If convicted, the soldiers could
      receive the death penalty.

      The case — one of about a dozen murder cases filed against U.S.
      troops in Iraq — is fueling a debate about the conduct of American
      forces here and the treatment of Iraqi civilians, particularly in
      the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

      Two other soldiers in Alban's unit, from Ft. Riley, Kansas, also are
      under investigation for what military officials say were the
      premeditated murders of three Iraqi civilians in separate cases.

      In September, a U.S. reservist was sentenced to 25 years for killing
      a teenage Iraqi national guard soldier after a sexual encounter in
      an observation tower. The soldier said he lost control because of
      traumatic memories of childhood abuse, but family members of the
      victim accused the American of assaulting the Iraqi and then
      shooting him to cover it up.

      "These crimes represent the pinnacle of American oppression and
      violence," said Mudaffar Battat, editor of a Sadr City newspaper.

      The identity of the Iraqi killed by Alban and Horne remains unclear.
      U.S. military officials say they can't verify the individual's name
      because they never collected his personal information, did not
      interview or compensate family members and then lost track of his
      body. They suspect that his body was taken by Iraqi police and

      Iraqi witnesses found by The Times identified the victim as Qassim
      Hassan, 16, who had joined his brother and several cousins that
      night to earn extra money. They said their group of 15 was traveling
      in three dump trucks about 1:30 a.m. and had just passed through a
      military checkpoint when they were attacked.

      "Most of [the victims] were poor teenagers," said Heider Ali Ismail,
      21, who drove one of the trucks. "We were finishing up and just
      about to unload the trucks."

      Hassan sat in the back of one of the trucks amid the rubbish, which
      ignited after the American soldiers fired.

      Hassan's cousin, Ahmed Majid, said in an interview that Hassan's
      clothing caught fire and he struggled to jump off the truck, falling
      to the ground unconscious.

      Military officials would not confirm whether Hassan was the same
      person shot by the soldiers. Majid and Raheem said they had been
      invited to testify at a military hearing Saturday.

      Accounts of the incident by U.S. and Iraqi witnesses bear some
      similarities, but the two sides disagree on other aspects of the
      attack, including the extent of injuries suffered by the Iraqi.

      Alban and Horne said in confessions that the man they shot was
      severely wounded and unlikely to survive. They said they watched him
      moan and writhe in pain until they could stand it no longer.

      Sgt. Jacob E. Smith, an Army medic who helped treat the wounded
      Iraqis, testified that the victim's limbs were severely burned and
      his intestines were spilling out.

      "Everything from his ribs to his hips was gone," Smith said. "He was
      in bad shape. He was going to die." Another witness said the man's
      spinal cord was exposed.

      Majid said his cousin was unconscious and struggling to breathe, but
      his only injuries were burns. He said he pleaded with soldiers to
      help his cousin and his brother, who was still trapped in the
      burning truck. But when he tried to help Hassan, he said, a soldier
      pushed him away, saying, "Shut up and go!" Then the soldier shot his
      cousin, he said.

      After the shooting, Majid said he saw two soldiers appearing to
      argue about the incident.

      At a recent military hearing in Baghdad, an Army gunner, Spc.
      William Davis, testified that the two sergeants initially asked him
      to shoot the wounded Iraqi. Davis said he refused.

      He described how an uninjured Iraqi male pleaded with Horne not to
      kill the wounded Iraqi on the ground.

      "The guy was saying, 'No,' " Davis testified. " 'He's my brother!
      He's my brother!' "

      According to Davis, Horne replied, "I understand, but he's gone."

      Then, after consulting with the platoon leader and briefly debating
      what sort of weapon to use, Alban and Horne shot the Iraqi,
      according to testimony at the recent hearing. Horne told
      investigators that he believed the Iraqi was alive after Alban's
      first shot, so he shot him as well.

      The platoon leader, Lt. Erick Anderson, remains under investigation
      but has not been charged. At a recent hearing, Anderson refused to
      testify, invoking his right against self-incrimination.

      Majid said his family received a total of $7,500 in compensation for
      the deaths of Hassan, another cousin and his brother.

      Efforts to find Iraqi witnesses were made only after an attorney for
      Alban criticized the government at a hearing for failing to do
      enough to track down the victim's family.

      "The witnesses should have the opportunity to have their day in
      court," said Capt. Catherine Robinson, a military attorney appointed
      to represent Alban.

      "Those Iraqis were there," she said. "They were in the dump truck.
      They know what happened. They know what happened to their cousins,
      brothers and whoever else was there."

      Government attorneys said the lack of records at the Iraqi police
      department and the dangerous conditions in Sadr City had hampered
      their investigation." There are security issues," said Capt. Emily
      Schiffer, chief of the legal unit that is pressing the case. "Also
      there are a lot of holes in the accountability" of the Iraqi police.

      Investigators said the lack of a body or autopsy report could also
      hinder the investigation.

      "If we don't have a body, we really don't have a case," Special
      Agent Herman Vanderhorst, the lead criminal investigator, testified.

      Horne, who joined the Army in 1999, has been negotiating a plea
      bargain with military officials, attorneys said.

      The initial attack by U.S. soldiers on the garbage truck is also
      under investigation to determine whether it was appropriate to open
      fire without warning. Military officials declined to provide
      details, saying an inquiry was underway.

      Iraqis caught in the attack said they wanted an explanation.

      "The Americans were acting like real cowboys," Raheem said. "I was
      just doing my job. There was nothing to suggest we were armed. Why
      did they open fire on us? I'm still waiting for an answer to that

      Times special correspondent Raheem Salman contributed to this report.

      Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

      Iraqi translator died hours before his wedding
      Fri 5 November, 2004

      BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi interpreter who died in a
      suicide attack against British troops had been due to
      marry just a few hours later, after delaying the
      ceremony to redeploy with his unit to a dangerous area
      near Baghdad.

      "The interpreter has been with the Black Watch since
      our arrival in Iraq and has become a friend to the
      soldiers," the Commanding Officer of the
      Scottish-based regiment said in a statement on Friday,
      a day after the attack.

      "He had volunteered to come north with us and had
      delayed his wedding which was to have taken place on
      the day of his death," the statement said.

      The man's name is being withheld for security reasons.

      A suicide car bomber killed three British soldiers and
      the interpreter on Thursday in the first fatal attack
      on the Black Watch since it moved from a relatively
      quiet southern area last week to stand in for American
      troops needed elsewhere.

      Eight British soldiers were also wounded in the
      checkpoint blast and subsequent mortar fire.

      Last month's decision to redeploy 850 British troops
      to volatile areas southwest of the Iraqi capital,
      freeing U.S. forces for an expected assault on the
      rebel-held city of Falluja, had been hotly debated in




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