BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Two U.S. soldiers have been charged in the death of an Iraqi civilian and with attempting to cover up the killing, the U.S. military said yesterday.
The charges, filed June 6 but first publicized yesterday, were the latest in a spate of incidents in which American soldiers have been accused of wrongly killing Iraqi civilians. Among those cases were the killings in November of 24 people, including women and children, in the town of Haditha.
In the case released yesterday by the military, Spc. Nathan B. Lynn was charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter on allegations that he shot an unarmed Ramadi resident, Gani Ahmad Zaben, on Feb. 15, the military said.
Lynn and Sgt. Milton Ortiz Jr., both members of the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry (Mechanized) of the Pennsylvania National Guard, were charged with one count each of obstructing justice, accused of conspiring with another soldier to put an AK-47 near the dead man's body in an attempt to make it look like he was an insurgent.
Ortiz also is charged with one count of communicating a threat during a separate incident March 8, when he allegedly placed an unloaded firearm to the head of an Iraqi and threatened to send the man to prison for the rest of his life.
The U.S. military is investigating at least three other cases in which several American soldiers and Marines are suspected of killing civilians and detainees in Iraq, including the deaths in Haditha. The accusations against the troops have caused tension with the new Iraqi government.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other political leaders have complained that killings of civilians by American troops have become a regular occurrence.
Both soldiers in the latest case have been transferred to a military base in Baghdad, where they could receive better access to defense lawyers.
They had been stationed in Ramadi, which has become a center for insurgent activity. U.S. troops speed through the city's deserted streets, fearing roadside bombs.