Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wire: US Army Sgt Charged With Murder in Deadly Iraq Shootings

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2009 -- Newswires reported this morning that a U.S. Army sergeant who had served previously in Iraq has been charged with murder and aggravated assault in the fatal shooting of five fellow soldiers at a U.S. military counseling clinic in Baghdad, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

Sgt. John M. Russell of the 54th Engineering Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany was charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in Monday's shooting, Maj. Gen. David Perkins told reporters.

The Associated Press said it was the deadliest case of soldier-on-soldier violence since the Iraq war began in 2003 and has drawn attention to the issue of combat stress and frequent deployments to battle zones.

AP noted the following details:
Russell was taken into custody by military police outside the clinic following the shooting at Camp Liberty, Perkins said. Perkins said two of the dead were officers - doctors from the Army and Navy - and the others were enlisted personnel seeking treatment at the clinic. He did not identify the victims by name.

He said a probe has also begun into whether the Army has enough mental health facilities in Iraq to care for stress cases. The U.S. military is coping with a growing number of stress cases among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan - many of whom are on their third or fourth combat tours. Some studies suggest that about 15 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq suffer from some sort of emotional problems.

Perkins gave few details of the shooting since the investigation is ongoing and added that there were conflicting accounts of what happened. He said the alleged assailant had been referred to the clinic by his superiors, presumably because of concern over his mental state.

Perkins said Russell was "probably" on his third tour of Iraq but was due to leave soon. Perkins said the assailant's weapon had been taken away. Somehow he got a new weapon, entered the clinic and opened fire, he added.

At the Pentagon, officials said the shooting occurred after the sergeant had been disarmed and turned away from the center but returned with another weapon. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
This is a developing story with official details to follow.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Army Sergeant Charged in Deadly Shootings

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