Thursday, August 03, 2006

Soldier Testifies Fellow Soldiers Committed Murder & Threatened to Murder Him

Soldier Testifies About Comrades' Threats
Hearing May Lead to Court-Martial for Four Accused of Murdering Iraqi Detainees

By Andy Mosher
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 3, 2006; Page A17

BAGHDAD, Aug. 2 -- An American soldier testified Wednesday that comrades threatened to kill him if he disclosed their roles in the slaying of three Iraqi detainees in May in northern Iraq.

Pfc. Bradley L. Mason, 20, said at a military hearing in Tikrit that Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard threatened him on May 10, the day after the Iraqis were shot dead in a raid on a suspected base of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad.

"He said that if I say anything, he'd kill me," Mason said, according to a pool report.

Later that day, Mason said, Pfc. Corey R. Clagett told him that Girouard "won't have to kill me because he'll kill me."

The case is one of several to surface in recent months in which U.S. service members have been accused of wrongfully killing Iraqi civilians, including an alleged massacre in Haditha and charges that five U.S. soldiers raped and murdered a 15-year-old girl near Mahmudiyah. The allegations have prompted strong denunciations from Iraqi leaders and critics of the U.S. military presence here.

Girouard, Clagett, Spec. William B. Hunsaker and Spec. Juston R. Graber have all been charged with murder and other offenses in connection with the killing of the three Iraqis. All but Graber are also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening to kill Mason.

All of the accused are members of the Army's 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Mason delivered his testimony during a so-called Article 32 hearing, after which a military court will rule whether there is sufficient evidence to court-martial the four defendants. Mason, a witness for the prosecution, was granted immunity to testify.

Mason testified that, during the May 9 raid, Girouard told his squad that Clagett and Hunsaker were going to kill three detainees who had been handcuffed.

Clagett and Hunsaker "just smiled," said Mason, who said he objected to Girouard. "I told him I'm not down with it. It's murder," he said.

Shortly afterward, Mason said, he heard the sound of gunfire. The three detainees were dead, he said, and Clagett told him that two had broken out of their plastic cuffs.

Mason, who acknowledged that he killed an "old man" during the raid, also stated that his unit -- the 3rd Battalion's C Company -- had been told to kill any military-age Iraqis it encountered.

Another witness, 1st Lt. Justin Werheim, testified that soldiers were told "several times" to "positively identify and kill any military-age male on the island" in Tharthar Lake where the raid was carried out.

Pfc. Jason Joseph, however, testified that the soldiers' orders were to "kill all military-age males that were not actively surrendering."

The hearing, which opened Tuesday, may continue for several more days.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, explosions killed civilians in several neighborhoods Wednesday.

The deadliest killed 11 Iraqis in the evening on a makeshift soccer field in west Baghdad, news services reported. Police said the victims, ages 15 to 25, were killed by two bombs buried in the field.

Three roadside bombs exploded Wednesday morning at Baghdad's al-Tayiran Square, killing five people and wounding 11.

In western Iraq's Anbar province, two U.S. service members were killed in combat, the military said. One was a Marine attached to the Army's 1st Armored Division, the other a soldier assigned to the 9th Naval Construction Regiment.

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