Tuesday, May 12, 2009

US War News Update: Occupation Soldier Charged With Murder of Fellow Troops; More Deaths Reported in April

US soldier charged with murders

A US soldier has been charged with five counts of murder a day after five fellow soldiers were shot dead at a military counselling clinic in Iraq.

Sgt John Russell was also charged with one count of aggravated assault, spokesman Maj Gen David Perkins said.

Sgt Russell, serving with the 54th Engineering Battalion based in Germany, was taken into custody after the shooting in Camp Liberty, Baghdad.

One Navy doctor, an Army doctor and three enlisted personnel were killed.

The clinic provides troops with help for personal issues or combat stress.

Weapon confiscated

Maj Gen Perkins said Sgt Russell had been referred to the clinic by his superiors, and that his weapon had been taken away about a week before the incident.

Details of the shooting are still unclear.

"We have many different accounts into exactly what happened," Maj Gen Perkins said.

Sgt Russell was "probably" on his third tour of duty in Iraq, but was due to return home soon, officials said.

An inquiry is under way into whether there are sufficient mental health facilities in Iraq for troops.

Almost one in five US soldiers deployed in Iraq suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to the US military's Battlemind website.

Incidents of US troops shooting fellow soldiers are rare.

The last such reported incident took place on 14 September 2008, when Sergeant Joseph Bozicevich allegedly shot dead two of his superior officers. This case is still being investigated.

Monday's shooting was the deadliest single incident involving US forces since 10 April, when five soldiers were killed by a truck bomb in the northern city of Mosul.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/05/12 21:45:43 GMT

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
22:20 Mecca time, 19:20 GMT

Al-Baghdadi 'denies' Iraq capture

Iraq's defence ministry had released pictures purporting to show al-Baghdadi in captivity

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, a senior al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, has denied in an audio message that he has been captured by the Iraqi authorities, a US group monitoring Islamist websites has said.

"Everyone was shocked by the lie promoted by the [Iraqi authorities] in which they claim again that they have arrested me," SITE Intelligence Group quoted al-Baghdadi as saying in the message issued to several websites on Tuesday.

Iraqi authorities said in April they had captured al-Baghdadi, identified as one of the top leaders of the local wing of al-Qaeda blamed for a wave of violence across the nation.

Iraqi security forces had released what they said was the first known picture of al-Baghdadi, showing a middle-aged man with dark skin and a close-cropped beard and moustache wearing a black shirt.

But the audio message purportedly from al-Baghdadi said the Iraqi government claims were false.

"Everyone has been surprised by the lies of the rulers," the voice claiming to be that of al-Baghdadi said.

"Sunnis, the Shias are your enemies. Their history is full of treacheries and plotting against you. Don't trust them or let their honeyed words fool you."

The authencity of the audio tape could not be immediately verified.

'Glad tidings'

Al-Baghdadi is said to be the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, which is close to al-Qaeda's main organisation in Iraq, led by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Iraqi officials have in the past reported the capture or killing of senior al-Qaeda operatives who later turned out to have been incorrectly identified.

Accompanying the audio tape, the websites carried a statement announcing that al-Baghdadi was alive and well.

It said: "We in the Islamic State of Iraq would like to show that the [defence ministry] report... is a lie and that we do not know in the first place the person whose picture was shown on the Iraqi satellite channel.

"We bring glad tidings to the Islamic nation that the leader of the faithful, Sheikh Abu Omar al-Baghdadi... is well."

Some experts say they are not convinced that al-Baghdadi exists, suggesting he is a fictional character invented by al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of a strategy to put an Iraqi figurehead at the top of an organisation that is otherwise foreign-run.

Secretly followed

In April, Mohammed al-Askari, a spokesman for the Iraqi defence ministry, told al-Iraqiya television that he could confirm al-Baghdadi's identity and that Iraqi security forces had been secretly following him.

He said the arrest was carried out without US military assistance.

If al-Baghdadi's arrest proves to be real, it would be a significant coup for Iraqi forces, who are trying to prove their abilities as the US force of 137,000 prepares to fully withdraw by 2011.

The violence sparked by the US-led invasion in 2003 has lessened since 2007 but April saw a spike in violence, with fighters showing themselves still capable of carrying out large-scale bombings.

Source: Agencies

Saturday, March 10, 2007
16:13 Mecca time, 13:13 GMT

Captured Iraqi not al-Baghdadi

The Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for many attacks in Iraq

Iraqi forces have captured the leader of an al-Qaeda linked group, but he is not Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, as previously reported.

Iraqi officials said on Saturday that investigations had proven the man captured in a raid on Friday was not al-Baghdadi but was "a senior al-Qaeda leader".

"We captured a figure who was a senior al-Qaeda member and we suspected that he was Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, but after initial investigations it was proven it was not Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. But he was a senior al-Qaeda leader," said Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman of the Baghdad security operation.

"Interrogations and investigations are still under way to get more information," he said.

Al-Moussawi had previously said that al-Baghdadi had been captured in a raid in Abu Ghraib on the outskirts of Baghdad, a report later verified by a senior adviser to Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.

"One of the terrorists who was arrested with him confessed that the one in our hands is al-Baghdadi," al-Moussawi said on Iraqiya state television on Friday.

Al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, has been identified in statements posted on websites as the self-styled head of the Islamic State of Iraq, proclaimed last year after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The Islamic State of Iraq, said to be linked to al-Qaeda and armed Sunni groups, has claimed responsibility for a string of major attacks.

US and Iraqi forces have increasingly focused on al-Baghdadi's group in their attempts to end sectarian vioence in Iraq.

Al-Baghdadi is also said to have headed the Mujahidin Shura Council, an alliance of al-Qaeda and other hardline groups. Very little is known about al-Baghdadi and his capture would be hard for officials to verify.

Source: Agencies

Iraqis tried for UK troop deaths

Two Iraqis have gone on trial in Baghdad accused of murdering two British soldiers during the US-led invasion of their country in 2003.

The defendants were officials of Iraq's former ruling Baath party who allegedly killed two British soldiers after they were captured by militias near Basra.

Pictures taken of Luke Allsopp and Simon Cullingworth after the ambush were later shown on al-Jazeera TV.

Faisal al-Saadoon and Khalaf Mufdhi are being tried under Iraqi jurisdiction.

They were tried by the British military last December after the House of Lords rejected objections to them being tried in Iraq.

Lawyers for the men had argued allowing them to stand trial in Iraq, where they could face the death penalty, violated both the European Convention on Human Rights and the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Since the invasion in 2003, in Iraq have totalled 179, including 136 killed in action.

TV controversy

Staff Sgt Cullingworth and Sapper Allsopp were both wounded when Iraqi Fedayeen forces ambushed their convoy on the outskirts of Zubayr on March 2003.

While some members of the convoy escaped, the pair were taken to a local Baath party headquarters and then to an Iraqi intelligence base, where they were shot dead.

Footage of the two soldiers lying wounded near their vehicle was broadcast by Qatari-owned al-Jazeera, prompting condemnation by the British government.

The soldiers' graves were discovered a month later and their bodies were exhumed.

Sapper Allsopp, from north London, and Sgt Cullingworth, from Essex, were both in the 33 Engineer Regiment - a specialist bomb disposal unit of the Royal Engineers based in Wimbish, Essex.

The Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Justice said they have been given assurances at the "highest level" that both men would receive a fair trial and treatment, whatever the outcome of the case.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/05/11 09:46:37 GMT

Big rise in Iraq deaths in April

By Jim Muir
BBC News, Baghdad

Iraq's government says that 355 Iraqis were killed in April, making it the bloodiest month so far this year.

The bulk of the deaths came from a number of big explosions, and the death count did not include at least 80 Iranian pilgrims killed in Iraq.

April was also the deadliest month for US troops since September, with 18 soldiers killed.

The casualties are nowhere near the 2006-07 levels when the insurgency and sectarian strife were at their peak.

Worrying trend

The figure of 355 Iraqis killed in April is mainly made up of 290 civilians, but it also includes 65 soldiers or policemen, who are often the targets of attacks.

The figures, issued by three Iraqi ministries, showed a 40% rise over March.

This is mainly because of several very big bomb attacks, including four in the space of just two days, in which at least 150 people were killed.

In both 2006 and 2007, the average monthly death toll for civilians alone was over 2,000.

Nonetheless, the trend shown by these and other casualty estimates since January this year has been creeping month by month, and that has to be a worrying development, as American troops start withdrawing.

The same trend seems to be reflected in US military casualties.

Eighteen Americans died in April, the highest number since last September, but also, far below their worst months in 2006 and 2007, when more than 100 died each month.

Iraqi leaders and US military officials are playing down the upward trend.

They say the bomb devices are cruder than in the past, and they are failing to stir up the kind of sectarian reaction which happened before.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/05/01 22:46:20 GMT

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