A senior U.S. Army officer has been charged with nine offenses, including aiding the enemy and fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee while he commanded a military police detachment at an American detention facility near Baghdad, the U.S. military announced Thursday.
Lt. Col. William H. Steele was accused of providing "aid to the enemy" by supplying an unmonitored cell phone to detainees, a U.S. statement said.
Steele was the commander of the 451st Military Police Detachment at Camp Cropper, a U.S. detention center on the western outskirts of Baghdad where former leader Saddam Hussein was held, when the offenses allegedly occurred between October 2005 and February, military spokesman Lt. Col. James Hutton said.
Steele was being held in Kuwait pending a grand jury investigation, Hutton said.
The other charges included unauthorized possession of classified information, fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee, maintaining an inappropriate relationship with an interpreter, storing classified information in his quarters and possessing pornographic videos, the military said. Steele also was charged with improperly marking classified information, failing to obey an order and failing to fulfill his obligations in the expenditure of funds, the military said.
Camp Cropper, located near the Baghdad airport, replaced the notorious Abu Ghraib prison as the main detention facility in the capital area. Saddam was held there, along with other members of his ousted regime, until his Dec. 30 execution.In Other Developments: A suicide car bomb attack on an Iraqi army checkpoint in northern Iraq killed 10 soldiers Thursday, police said. The attack, which also wounded 10 Iraqi soldiers and five civilians, occurred about 9 a.m. in Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad, in the Diyala province. Diyala has been the site of some of the worst recent violence.
U.S. ground and air forces killed four suspected insurgents in a battle near Taji, a U.S. air base 12 miles north of Baghdad; two Iraqi women and two children apparently died in the crossfire. "Unfortunately al Qaeda in Iraq continues to use women and children in their illegal activities," U.S. military spokesman Christopher Garver said.
Also Thursday, two suicide bombers attacked an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, killing three of its guards and wounding five, police said. The casualties could have been higher if guards had not opened fire on the two attackers, forcing them to detonate their explosives at least 50 yards from the office, police said. The attack occurred in Zumar, a town 45 miles west of Mosul, the capital of Ninevah province. It was the second suicide attack this week aimed at the KDP in that area.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr joined growing criticism of a 3-mile-long, 12-foot-high concrete wall the U.S. military is building in Azamiyah, a Sunni stronghold of Baghdad that has been targeted by mortar and rocket attacks by Shiite militiamen. Al-Sadr called the wall a "sectarian, racist and unjust" plot by the Americans to divide Iraqis, while his supporters demonstrated in Sadr City, chanting "No, no to division." Regardless, a spokesman for the U.S. military told the Associated Press on Thursday that work was continuing on the wall. Col. Don Farris said that the Iraqi government had asked them to resume building the structure. The building had been temporarily suspended by the Iraqi Prime Minister. "Since then it has been communicated to me through the chain of command that the prime minister and the Iraqi security force commanders have authorized the work to continue," said Farris. An al-Sadr aide, Sheik Salah al-Obaidi, told reporters in the Shiite holy city of Najaf that other demonstrations condemning the wall were planned.
President Bush next week is expected to receive, and swiftly reject, legislation ordering U.S. troops to begin coming home from Iraq this fall. The veto could fall on the fourth anniversary of the president's Iraq "victory" speech. The House, in a 218-208 vote Wednesday passed a $124.2 billion supplemental spending bill that contains the troop withdrawal timetable. The Senate was expected to follow suit Thursday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Wednesday that Iran still has not decided whether to attend the upcoming summit on Iraq in Egypt. Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari had come to Tehran Wednesday with "clarifications" for Iran about the May 3-4 conference in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheik resort. "We will study them, and we will announce our opinion on the conference soon," Mottaki said at a press conference alongside Zebari.
In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb missed a passing police patrol on Thursday morning but killed four civilians and wounded nine in a commercial district, police said.
At 3:45 p.m., a parked parked car bomb exploded near Baghdad University, killing eight civilians and wounding 19, including some students, police said.
On Thursday, a funeral procession was held in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City for an Iraqi who locals said was killed in an attack by the U.S. Air Force early that morning. Associated Press Television News footage showed three large craters in the ground of the commercial area and the windows of some of its stores had been blown out. The U.S. military said it was checking the report, but could not immediately confirm it.
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