US soldier pleads guilty of killing Iraqi girl

A US soldier pleaded guilty Tuesday to rape and murder in the death of a 14-year-old girl and her family last year in Iraq. A judge has not yet accepted the plea. The military court still must decide whether the killings were premeditated and will hear evidence Wednesday. The court will consider whether Sgt. Paul E. Cortez should be found guilty of premeditated murder and whether he is guilty of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, defense lawyer William Cassara said Tuesday. Cortez kept his eyes down during the proceeding except when he was addressing Henley. The March 2006 killing of Abeer Quassim al-Janabi, 14, and her family in Mahmoudiya was originally reported to be the work of insurgents. Later, soldiers told their superiors of their suspicion that US soldiers were involved. The deaths are considered among the worst in a series of alleged atrocities by US military personnel in Iraq. Prosecutors have said the girl was raped and her body set on fire to hide evidence.