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Soldier charged with murder in 2007 Iraq killings

Nov. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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A former Fort Bragg, N.C., soldier has been charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the killing of two Iraqi civilians.

The charges against Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barbera, 31, stem from an alleged shooting of two civilians near the village of As Sadah in Diyala province in March 2007.

Barbera is also charged with impeding the investigation by suggesting that a staff sergeant, unnamed in charging documents, lie to investigators when questioned in 2007.

Barbera also allegedly threatened the wife of reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2011. The newspaper investigated the incident and first made it public with an award-winning investigative report in 2012.

Barbera allegedly told the woman, “For your own personal safety, I suggest you tell him he needs to stop working on this story,” according to charging documents obtained by Army Times. The documents do not identify the woman, but the newspaper reported Barbera threatened the wife of one of its reporters.

Barbera was reportedly charged Nov. 13 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. He is attached to a unit there under I Corps for the purposes of the court-martial.

According to the Tribune-Review, Barbera was a small kill team leader when he shot two teenage cattle herders. He allegedly ordered his soldiers to kill a third teenager walking toward them.

“Barbera would report to his superiors that the three dead boys were insurgents operating out of this farming village about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad,” the newspaper reported.

The boys, who were deaf, were Ahmad Khalid al-Timmimi, 15, his brother, Abbas, and their cousin, Muhamed Khaleel Kareem al-Galyani, both 14. The boys had no known ties to the insurgency and were unarmed.

According to the Tribune-Review, members of Barbera’s squad reported the killings to Army investigators at Fort Bragg. Frustrated that no action had been taken against Barbera, the soldiers later approached the newspaper wanting to know the status of the investigation.

The soldiers believed Barbera’s actions triggered two reprisal suicide bombings at their combat outpost that killed 10 of their fellow paratroopers in the 5th Squadron of the 73rd Cavalry Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

Now, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Barbera has been charged with Article 118, premeditated murder with two specifications of murder, and Article 134, two specifications of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.

Barbera has been charged in two of the three deaths. Authorities did not name the two people Barbera is accused of killing.

He is scheduled to be transferred to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., for an Article 32 hearing, which would determine whether he would face a court-martial.

JBLM was the site of the trial this year for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. In August, Bales was sentenced to life in prison without parole after he pleaded guilty to the killing of 16 Afghan civilians.

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