updated 11/24/2004 8:40:29 PM ET 2004-11-25T01:40:29

A U.S. soldier was arrested and jailed on murder charges Wednesday in the death of an Iraqi civilian in January.

Staff Sgt. Shane Werst, 31, of El Toro, Calif., is accused of killing Naser Ismail after he was taken into custody by Werst’s unit during a “cordon-and-search” operation in the Iraqi city of Balad on Jan. 3.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a spokesman at Fort Hood, would not say how Ismail died. He said charges were filed within days after another soldier came forward to report the alleged crime.

Werst, a 13-year Army veteran, was also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly ordering other soldiers to lie about the incident, the Army said.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. No trial date has been set.

Werst was serving with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colo., at the time. He has since been reassigned to a unit based out of Fort Hood, about 150 miles north of San Antonio.

At least four other Fort Carson soldiers face charges for alleged crimes in Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins and 1st Lt. Jack Saville are accused of pushing two Iraqis off a bridge into the Tigris River in January as punishment for violating curfew. One of the men drowned.

Perkins, 33, is scheduled for trial at Fort Hood next month on charges of manslaughter, conspiracy, assault and lying to investigators. Saville, 24, will be tried in January.

In another incident, Capt. Shawn L. Martin and Staff Sgt. Ceolia J. Turner are accused of “unauthorized treatment of Iraqi individuals” for a reported incident near Ar Rutbah between May and July. Both face charges of assault and aggravated assault.

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