U.S. News

U.S. soldiers say they executed Iraqis on riverbank: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three U.S. soldiers killed four handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots on the bank of a Baghdad canal last year, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Sergeant First Class Joseph P. Mayo, the platoon sergeant, and Sergeant Michael P. Leahy Jr., Company D’s senior medic and an acting squad leader, made sworn statements in January to Army investigators in Schweinfurt, Germany probing the incident, the newspaper reported on its website.

The men each described killing one of the Iraqi detainees, as directed by First Sergeant John E. Hatley, according to the statements. Hatley shot two other detainees with a pistol in the back of the head, Mayo and Leahy told investigators, according to the NYT.

U.S. soldiers cannot harm enemy combatants once they are disarmed and in custody, the NYT said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army in Europe declined to comment, saying he could not speculate on any future legal action.

David Court, the lawyer in Germany named by the NYT as representing Hatley, was not immediately reachable.

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According to Leahy’s statement, cited by the NYT, Army officials directed Hatley’s convoy to release the men because there was insufficient evidence to detain them.

“First Sergeant Hatley then made the call to take the detainees to a canal and kill them,” as retribution for the deaths of two soldiers from the unit, Leahy said in his statement.

“So the patrol went to the canal, and First Sergeant, Sgt. First Class Mayo and I took the detainees out of the back of the Bradley (fighting vehicle), lined them up and shot them,” he added, according to The Times. “Then we pushed the bodies into the canal and left.”

After the men were killed, Hatley told Leahy and Mayo to remove the Iraqis’ bloody blindfolds and plastic handcuffs, according to the newspaper. The three soldiers then shoved the bodies into the canal and drove back to their combat outpost, the paper said.

No charges have been filed against Hatley, Mayo or Leahy -- all from Company D, First Battalion, Second Infantry, 172nd Infantry Brigade.

However, four other soldiers have been charged with conspiracy to commit premeditated murder relating to an incident that occurred last year in Baghdad, the U.S. Army in Europe said in a statement last month.

A hearing in that case opened on Tuesday and is still going on in the southern German town of Vilseck, the U.S. Army spokesman said on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin