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Iraq Transition

Iraq rape-slaying scene detailed at hearing

Suicide bomber kills 14 at funeral in Hussein's hometown

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Four witnesses took the stand Sunday as a preliminary hearing began for four U.S. soldiers charged in connection with the rape and slaying of an Iraqi and the killing of her family in Iraq.

The witnesses testifying on the first day of the hearing at Camp Victory, near Baghdad, included an Iraqi army medic who graphically described the state of the bodies after the alleged crimes in Mahmoudiya.

Members of the media were allowed to hear the testimony of the medic and of the soldiers' battalion commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk. The other two witnesses were unidentified Iraqis, and reporters were not permitted to hear their testimony, The Associated Press said. (Watch testimony from second day of hearings -- 1:54)

The medic, who was not identified for security reasons, said he was the first emergency responder on the scene and detailed the gunshot wounds found on the family's bodies, according to the AP.

"I was feeling very bad," he was quoted as saying. "I was sick for almost two weeks."

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spec. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard were all charged with conspiring with former Pfc. Steven D. Green to commit the alleged crimes, the military said.

The four could face the death penalty, the military has said. The so-called Article 32 hearing is the military equivalent of a probable cause or preliminary hearing.

A fifth soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, was charged with failing to report the alleged rape and killings but is not accused of being a direct participant. He is not facing an Article 32 hearing at this time.

Green, who was discharged from the Army in May because of an "anti-social personality disorder," faces rape and murder charges in federal court.

The incident took place in March in Mahmoudiya, just south of Baghdad. A Justice Department affidavit filed in Green's case says Green and other soldiers planned the rape.

The affidavit says Green shot and killed a woman's relatives, including a girl of about 5 years of age, then raped the woman and fatally shot her. It says the incident took place "on or about March 12, 2006."

Identity cards and death certificates obtained by Reuters news agency suggest the rape-murder victim was 14 years old.

In his testimony, Kunk described his interrogations of Yribe, Barker and Green.

Kunk said he was first made aware of the incident after a telephone call from company commander Capt. John Goodwin on June 19. He testified that Goodwin informed him of the alleged murders and asked him for guidance.

Immediately after that phone call, Kunk said, he made plans to travel to Yusifiya, where Goodwin was stationed, to investigate the incident.

Kunk recalled interviewing Yribe, whom he described as the first coalition soldier to get to the scene of the killings. He described the sergeant as straightforward and said Yribe "said he didn't have any participation that day."

Kunk said Yribe showed him photographs of the scene that he said he took.

Kunk also recalled questioning Barker, whom he described as "very flippant, very confident, and more than willing to answer the questions I had."

"He said, 'No sir, no coalition soldier was responsible for the ... murder of that family and the rape and murder of that little girl,' " Kunk testified.

Kunk said Howard told him he did not know who was responsible for the crime, nor did he have any further knowledge.

None of the three soldiers asked for an attorney during the questioning, Kunk said.

During defense questioning about his platoon's morale and welfare, Kunk recalled Green saying that "all Iraqis are bad people."

"I told him that that wasn't true and that 90 to 95 percent of the Iraqi people are good people and they want the same thing that we have in the United States," Kunk said, recalling the conversation that took place sometime before Green was discharged from the Army.

Soldiers are quoted in the Justice Department affidavit as telling investigators that after the rape and slayings, Green and his companions set the family's house afire, threw the AK-47 rifle used in the killings into a nearby canal and burned their bloodstained clothing.

The identity cards and death certificates of the victims, obtained by Reuters, show that the alleged rape victim was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, with the birthdate August 19, 1991. The mayor of Mahmoudiya confirmed her identity and birthdate to CNN.

The U.S. military had previously referred to the alleged rape victim as a "young Iraqi woman." A Justice Department affidavit in the case against Green says investigators estimated her age at about 25, while the U.S. military said she was 20.

All six of the soldiers are from the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Green is being held in a Kentucky jail and last month he was granted a three-month delay in his arraignment. He has pleaded not guilty.

Bullet-riddled bodies found

At least 15 people were killed and 17 were wounded Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral procession in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, police said.

The incident occurred at 8 p.m. (1 p.m. ET) in the ancestral home of ousted President Saddam Hussein, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Baghdad.

The bomber blew himself up at a hall in the Qadisiyah neighborhood in central Tikrit, where people had gathered to mourn the death of the father of two men, one of them a provincial council member and the other a police officer.

The official said the suicide bomber left his car -- rigged with explosives -- outside the hall, but it did not explode. Bomb experts defused it.

Also Sunday, 12 bullet-riddled bodies showing signs of torture were found by Iraqi police in various Baghdad neighborhoods, according to Baghdad emergency police.

Police said they could not immediately identify the bodies.

Nine bodies turned up in similar discoveries a day earlier, Baghdad police said. (Full story)

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