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5 U.S. Soldiers Charged In Rape-Slay

Four U.S. soldiers have been charged with rape and murder and a fifth for dereliction of duty in the March 12 rape-slaying of an Iraqi teenager in Mahmoudiya, the U.S. military said Sunday.

The five were accused Saturday following an investigation into allegations that American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division raped the teenager and killed her and three members of her family at her home south of Baghdad.

The military initially said only four soldiers had been charged but later issued a correction to say there were five.

Ex-soldier Steven D. Green was arrested last week in North Carolina and has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder.

The U.S. statement said the four soldiers still on active duty will face an Article 32 investigation, similar to a grand jury hearing in civilian law. The Article 32 proceeding will determine whether there is enough evidence to place them on trial.

One of the soldiers was charged with failing to report the attack but is not believed to have participated in it directly, the statement said.

The names of the four soldiers were not released.

The March 12 attack on the family was among the worst in a series of cases of U.S. troops accused of killing and abusing Iraqi civilians. U.S. officials are concerned that the alleged rape-slaying will strain relations with the new U.S.-backed government and increase calls for changes in the agreement that exempts American soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded an independent investigation into the case, which followed a series of allegations that U.S. troops killed and mistreated Iraqi civilians.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in Green's case, Green and at least two others targeted the teenager and her family for a week before the attack, which was not revealed until witnesses came forward in late June.

The soldiers drank alcohol, abandoned their checkpoint, changed clothes to avoid detection and headed to the victims' house, about 200 yards from a U.S. military checkpoint in the so-called "Triangle of Death," a Sunni Arab area south of Baghdad known for its violence, the affidavit said.

The affidavit estimated the rape victim was about 25. But a doctor at the Mahmoudiya hospital gave her age as 14. He refused to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Green is accused of raping the woman and killing her and three relatives, an adult male and female and a girl estimated to be 5-years-old. An official familiar with the investigation said he set fire to the rape victim's body in an apparent cover-up attempt.

Iraqi authorities identified the rape victim as Abeer Qassim Hamza. The other victims were her father, Qassim Hamza; her mother, Fikhriya Taha; and her sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza.

Based on interviews and records, the U.S. military now believes the woman who allegedly was raped and then killed was between the ages of 14 and 20, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Friday. While the military initially said she was 20, Boyce said he has seen documents that indicate she could have been about 14.

Last Thursday, Green entered his plea through his public defenders.

Green also waived a detention hearing and a preliminary hearing, and agreed that his case would be prosecuted in the Western District of Kentucky.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Moyer set an arraignment date of Aug. 8 in Paducah, Ky., for Green, who was arrested by FBI agents in Marion, N.C. Green appeared in baggy shorts and flip-flops, and was wearing the same Johnny Cash T-shirt he wore to a hearing Monday in Charlotte, N.C.

Green answered Moyer's questions about his inability to pay for an attorney, saying he has about $6,000 in a checking account and owns a 1995 Lincoln Town Car.

"I don't have anything else," he told the judge.

Green, who served 11 months with the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., received an honorable discharge and left the army in mid-May. He was discharged because of an "anti-social personality disorder," according to military officials and court documents.