U.S. soldier charged with murder for Iraq shooting

BAGHDAD Tue May 12, 2009 7:05pm BST

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier suspected of shooting dead five fellow servicemen at a military clinic in Baghdad was charged with five counts of murder on Tuesday, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The statement said Sergeant John Russell from the 54th Engineer Battalion, based in Bamberg, Germany, was suspected of being the man who went on a shooting spree at Camp Liberty, near Baghdad airport, on Monday, an incident that the top U.S. military officer suggested may have been triggered by stress.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement that he was shocked and deeply saddened by the "horrible tragedy" in which the man walked into a centre for soldiers who are experiencing stress and opened fire, killing the five.

"The suspect ... Sgt John Russell is charged with five specifications of murder and one specification of aggravated assault," the statement said, adding that he was currently in military police custody.

"There were a total of five service members killed yesterday. Two were 55th Medical Company staff officers at the Liberty Combat Stress Control Centre," it added.

The other three were Army enlisted soldiers who happened to be at the centre at the time, it added.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday that the incident highlighted the need to redouble efforts to deal effectively with combat stress and of the risk of multiple deployments of soldiers.

"An additional investigation, an AR-15/6, is being conducted into the overall behavioural health services policies and procedures offered in Iraq," the statement said.

"This suspected individual was apprehended outside of the clinic shortly after the shots were heard," Major-General David Perkins, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq said, adding that his commander had earlier determined that it was best he have his weapon taken away.

"It will include an examination of how the incident occurred. We will also examine the steps taken to see if we can reduce the possibility of another event like it occurring in the future," he said.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Writing by Tim Cocks)

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