Iraq Sentences Al Qaeda Suspect To Death

GENERIC: Iraq, War, Soldier, Soldiers, Troops
An Iraqi court on Tuesday sentenced to death by hanging a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq militant for the grisly 2006 killing of three U.S. soldiers south of Baghdad.

Ibrahim al-Qaraghuli was one of three suspected militants who have gone to trial for the killings.

The other two - Walid al-Kartani and Kazim al-Zubaie - were found not guilty for lack of sufficient evidence, but it was not immediately clear whether they would be released from custody. All three men are Iraqis and have been in custody for at least a year.

Tuesday's court hearing was held in the fortress-like Law and Order Complex that was built last year in eastern Baghdad as part of a U.S. push to establish rule of law in Iraq and protect judicial officials from attacks by insurgents and criminal gangs.

Al-Qaraghuli, who wore a prison jumpsuit, lowered his head Tuesday but remained silent when he heard the verdict read by chief judge, Munther Raouf Haadi.

The killing of the three 101st Airborne Division soldiers was one of the most brazen attacks against U.S. forces since the Iraq war began in 2003.

The three were ambushed June 16, 2006 while at an isolated checkpoint near the Euphrates River. The brazen attack came during a time of particularly intense fighting in predominantly Sunni areas just south of Baghdad where al Qaeda fighters were active. At the time, the area was known as the Triangle of Death.

David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was found dead at the site of the checkpoint. The two other 101st soldiers were kidnapped, sparking a massive search effort by the military.

The mutilated bodies of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., were found three days later near a power station, not far from the checkpoint.

It took crews several hours to recover the bodies because they had been tied together and booby-trapped with roadside bombs planted throughout the area.

An al Qaeda linked group later posted a Web video showing the bodies of the two soldiers being dragged behind a truck, then set on fire.

The evidence against the three included fingerprints collected from the truck, which was later found abandoned, along with written testimony from villagers who witnessed the dragging incident, according to U.S. military investigators.

Al-Kartani and al-Qaraghuli were arrested on separate days in July 2006 during security sweeps in the area. Al-Zubaie was detained a year later.

The U.S. military has said at least one other suspect has been killed.

In related developments:

  • The Iraqi government spokesman says the Cabinet has authorized Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reopen talks with the United States on a draft security pact. Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says the Cabinet's decision on Tuesday was taken after amendments to the draft proposed by ministers from various political parties were compiled and handed to al-Maliki.
  • Four police officers were killed Tuesday in a drive-by shooting in the turbulent northern city of Mosul. A police officer in Mosul said gunmen opened fire on eight off-duty policemen who were traveling in two civilian cars to work, killing four and wounding the rest. The attack underlines the continuing violence in Mosul at a time when most of the rest of Iraq has seen a dramatic drop in violence.
  • Three civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when a car bomb went off at an outdoor market in al-Jihad, a neighborhood in western Baghdad, a police officer and a hospital doctor said. The police officers and the hospital doctor spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release the information.
  • A police officer said nine people, including four policemen, were wounded in two separate roadside bombs targeting police convoys in Baghdad.