Fri, Jan 07, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bodies of 18 job seekers found near Mosul

DEADLY WAGES Getting a job with the US occupation forces in Iraq is considered a crime meriting the death sentence by Iraqi insurgents, as grisly remains demonstrate

AP , Baghdad, Iraq, and Fort Hood, Texas

The bodies of 18 young Iraqis executed after seeking work at a US base have been found in a field near the volatile city of Mosul, police said yesterday.

Police said that the insurgents shot the men, aged between 14 and 20, on Dec. 8 after stopping their two mini-buses about 50km west of Mosul as they traveled from Baghdad.

Their hands were tied behind their back and each of them was shot in the head, police said. All of them were Shiite Muslims from Baghdad's northern neighborhood of Kadhimiya who were hired by an Iraqi contractor to work at a US base in Mosul.

Dozens of bodies, mostly belonging to members of Iraqi security forces, were found in Mosul in November. At least 10 of the bodies -- nine of them shot execution-style -- were of Iraqi soldiers based at the al-Kisik military base about 50km west of Mosul. Four of the bodies were found decapitated.

Insurgents have frequently warned Iraqis cooperating with US military that they would be killed because of their collaboration with American occupiers.

They were shot in the head. "This is the fate of anyone who cooperates with the Americans," said a handwritten note placed on one of the bodies.

Meanwhile, in Texas an Iraqi civilian testified that he and his cousin were forced at gunpoint into the murky Tigris River and that US soldiers laughed while the two struggled against the current.

Marwan Fadel Hassoun said he struggled to shore and tried to save his 19-year-old cousin by grabbing his hand, but the powerful waters swept Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun to his death.

"He was calling my name, saying `Help me! Help me!"' Marwan Hassoun testified through an interpreter on the second day of the military trial for army Sergeant First Class Tracy Perkins, 33.

Perkins and army First Leiutenant Jack Saville, 24, are charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.

The judge Wednesday dropped a conspiracy charge against Perkins, who could be sentenced to up to 26 years in prison if convicted of all remaining counts. Saville, who still faces a conspiracy charge, faces up to 29 years.

The defense denies that Zaidoun Hassoun died in the river near Samarra. Saville's trial was postponed until March after a judge ordered the victim's body to be exhumed for an autopsy and identification.

Soldiers testified Tuesday that they thought the Iraqi pair seemed suspicious and were out past the 11pm curfew. They also said the plumbing equipment they were carrying could be used to make bombs.

Marwan Hassoun testified that he and his cousin were out after curfew because their truck had broken down.

He said Zaidoun Hassoun clung to the soldiers who pushed him before eventually falling into the cold water.

"They had the rifles aimed toward us, but they thought that we were dying," Marwan Hassoun testified.

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