NBC News and news services
updated 6/19/2006 5:59:58 PM ET 2006-06-19T21:59:58

The U.S. Army has charged three soldiers in connection with the deaths of three Iraqis who were in military custody in northern Iraq last month, the military said Monday.

The Multinational Corps-Iraq said three members of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division have been charged in connection with the deaths of three male detainees during an operation near Thar Thar Canal in northern Salahuddin province on May 9.

“A noncommissioned officer and two soldiers each have been charged with violating several articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, communicating a threat, and obstructing justice,” an announcement said.

It added that “on the day the alleged murders occurred, the unit commander ordered an inquiry to determine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three detainees.”

A military official released a copy of the official charges Monday. The soldiers were identified as Pvt. 1st Class Corey R. Clagett, Staff Sgt. Raymond Girouard and Spec. William B. Hunsaker, all from the C Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). They were assigned to Forward Operating Base Brassfield-Mora in Samarra at the time of the incident.

A fourth soldier, Pvt. 1st Class Bradley L. Mason, was riding in a vehicle with the others and was threatened with death if he told what he knew about the incident, according to the charges. He has not been charged.

'Ongoing investigation
The announcement said that a criminal investigation began May 17 and was ongoing.

“The soldiers are currently in pre-trial confinement awaiting an Article 32 hearing to determine if sufficient evidence exists for the case to be referred to court-martial,” the announcement said

Once charged, defendants have the right to an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation.

Last week, the Army said it had opened a criminal investigation into the suspicious deaths of three men in military custody in Iraq.

The investigation was requested by Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, who acted after other soldiers raised suspicions about the deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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