US military clears soldier of killing Iraqi

 

The US military has cleared a soldier of unlawfully killing an Iraqi civilian after investigators concluded Specialist Nathan Lynn had reason to believe the man was carrying a gun when he opened fire.

Charges were brought against Lynn last month at a time when several murder investigations into US troops in Iraq have prompted questions about their behaviour and complaints from the new Iraqi government about a culture of impunity among soldiers.

"The commander ... has withdrawn ... the charges," a military spokesman said last night. "He is now authorised to rejoin his unit in Pennsylvania."

Lynn, a 21-year-old Pennsylvania National Guardsman, was accused of voluntary manslaughter and conspiracy to obstruct justice over the death of Gani Ahmed Zaben during a raid on a suspect's house in the western city of Ramadi on February 15.

However, at a preliminary hearing on Thursday in the US military headquarters at Baghdad airport, the chief investigator recommended that the manslaughter charge against Lynn be dismissed on the grounds that Lynn believed Zaben was armed and so acted within the "rules of engagement" (RoE) in killing him. Evidence now suggested, however, that Zaben was unarmed.

The conspiracy charge, that Lynn knew that others placed an AK-47 rifle next to Zaben's body to justify the shooting, was also dropped on the grounds there was no proof Lynn was aware of this. A second soldier, Sergeant Milton Ortiz, is waiting for a decision on whether he will face a court martial on this charge.

"I am very pleased that Specialist Lynn was vindicated this early in the process," his military counsel, Captain Jim Culp, said.