Soldiers charged with killing Iraqi prisoners
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three members of the 101st Airborne Division have been charged with murder in the May shooting deaths of three Iraqi prisoners, the U.S. military announced Monday.
Pentagon sources told CNN the soldiers claimed the prisoners were attempting to flee at the time.
The three soldiers have been identified as Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, Pfc. Corey Claggett and Spc. William B. Hunsacker of the 101st Airborne's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, the military said.
All three face charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with the prisoners' deaths.
They also are accused of obstructing justice and threatening a fellow soldier who witnessed the shootings, telling him they would kill him if he talked.
If convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they could face sentences ranging from five years in prison for threatening a witness to a possible death sentence for murder.
CNN has not yet reached attorneys for the three soldiers.
The killings took place May 9 during an operation in Salaheddin province near Tharthar Canal, which connects the Tigris and Euphrates rivers north of Baghdad, the military said.
The incident took place "at or near" the Al-Muthanna chemical plant, near Samarra, which Iraq once used to produce nerve gas, according to the military.
The accused soldiers are in pretrial custody, awaiting a hearing that will determine whether investigators have enough evidence for a court-martial.
Their unit commander ordered an investigation into the deaths the day they occurred, said the U.S. command in Baghdad.
The Army's Criminal Investigative Command began its own investigation eight days later, on May 17, and the probe is continuing, the military said.
All three soldiers are members of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, headquartered at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The U.S. military also is investigating whether up to eight Marines from Kilo company of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha and engaged in a cover-up after one of their own was killed in a roadside bombing.
Three Marines have been relieved of their duties, but none of the Marines has been charged in that incident, alleged to have occurred on November 19.
In another investigation, the exhumed body of an Iraqi man allegedly murdered by U.S. Marines last April was being examined at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, where investigators were looking for evidence about his shooting death in Hamdaniya on April 26.
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