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Sergeants charged in alleged slay case

BAGHDAD -- Two sergeants are among five American soldiers charged in the alleged rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of three of her relatives, the US military said yesterday in releasing the identities of the suspects.

A previously discharged soldier had been arrested in the case last month and charged with rape and murder.

The military announced Sunday that it charged five more men after an investigation into allegations that soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division raped and killed the woman, then fatally shot her father, mother and sister at their home in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad.

It didn't identify the five until yesterday.

Sergeant Paul E. Cortez, Specialist James P. Barker, Private First Class Jesse V. Spielman, and Private First Class Bryan L. Howard are accused of rape and murder and several other charges as alleged participants. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

A fifth, Sergeant Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.

The five will face an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, to determine if they should stand trial.

They are charged with conspiring with former soldier Steven D. Green, who was arrested in the case last month in North Carolina. Green has pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and four counts of murder and is being held without bond.

The US military spokesman in Iraq, Major General William Caldwell, declined to comment further on details about the attack, saying the investigation continues.

``But they obviously had enough information in the initial investigation to go ahead and charge those four soldiers all with alleged rape, rape, obstruction of justice, housebreaking, arson and the other offenses," he told reporters in Baghdad.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in Green's case, he and at least two others targeted the young woman 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 US checkpoint in 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.

Green is accused of raping the woman and killing her and the three other family members, including a girl estimated to be 5 years old.

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