Former Soldier Accused of Brutal Rape and Murder of 14-Year Old Iraqi Girl Starts Trial

It was called one of the most horrific crimes by U.S. troops against Iraqi civilians: In March 2006, a group of whiskey-fueled soldiers, their faces concealed and wearing black long underwear, descended upon a farmhouse some 20 miles south of Baghdad, gang-raped a teenage girl and shot her in the head, killing her along with her younger sister and their parents. The soldiers then tried to burn the bodies, setting fire to the house.

The grisly crime was initially blamed on insurgents -- "This is what happens when you harbor terrorists," a military translator told a relative after the bodies were found -- but three months later, the truth was revealed, when a fellow soldier from the unit told combat-stress counselors about what had happened.

Initial reports claimed that the girl, Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, was in her 20s. But her Iraqi ID card, obtained by Reuters, showed her date of birth is confirmed to be August 19, 1991, making her 14 years old at the time of her death.

News reports of the incident describe it as a "premeditated" act -- and indeed it was. A federal affidavidt tells the story of how the soldiers, stationed at a traffic checkpoint near the town of Mahmoudiya some 1,000 feet from Abeer's home, would often stop by the house just to stare at her.

According to a 2006 article in TIME magazine, "Her mother, who grew concerned enough to make plans for Abeer to move in with a cousin, told relatives that whenever she caught the Americans ogling her daughter, they would give her the thumbs-up sign, point to the girl and say, 'Very good, very good.'"

"Abeer's brother Mohammed, 13, told TIME he once watched his sister, frozen in fear, as a U.S. soldier ran his index finger down her cheek. Mohammed has since learned that soldier's name: Steven Green."

Today, Steven D. Green, 23, stands trial for planning and leading the assault and massacre of Abeer and her family. A former Private First Class from the 101st Airborne Division who was honorably discharged with a "personality disorder" soon after the killings, Green became the first person identified as one of the perpetrators of the grisly crime, which has been compared to the notorious Haditha massacre in 2005. His trial began this week, at a U.S. District Court in Paducah, Kentucky.

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