Rules of Engagement
AS SADAH, Iraq — Shortly before noon on March 6, 2007, Small Kill Team leader Michael Barbera rose from his squad's position in high grass in a palm grove here and shot two teenage cattle herders.
A short time later, the Army staff sergeant 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.
In reality, Ahmad Khalid al-Timmimi, 15, his brother, Abbas, and their cousin, Muhamed Khaleel Kareem al-Galyani, both 14, were unarmed deaf mutes with no known ties to the insurgency. Their slayings angered most members of Barbera's squad — decorated combat veterans who reported the killings to Army investigators in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Those 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.
In late 2010, several of Barbera's former soldiers asked the Tribune-Review to get answers about what happened to a secret Army probe into their allegations. In a two-year investigation, a Trib reporter traveled to Fort Bragg, across the United States and into an area of Iraq vacated by American troops to find out what happened.
Classified documents provided to the Trib eventually revealed what no soldier or Iraqi villager knew: Army investigators recommended that Barbera face charges, including two counts of murder. But Barbera was never brought to court.
American soldier charged in Iraq killings of deaf, unarmed teensNovember 15, 2013
By Carl Prine and Jim Wilhelm
An Army small-kill team leader is charged by military investigators with two counts of murder in the fatal shootings of two deaf, unarmed Iraqi youths in March 2007, an incident first made public in a Tribune-Review investigative report last year. Then-Staff Sgt. Michael Barbera is accused of killing Ahmad Khalid …
Five-year legacy of Iraq mission gone awryDecember 1, 2012
By Carl Prine
AS SADAH, IRAQ - Staring over the barrel of his machine gun, Dary Finck had the shot. But the U.S. Army private first class refused to take it. Same with the three sergeants crouching in thigh-high grass: Ken Katter, the Small Kill Team's sniper with his finger on the trigger, …
Department of Justice urged to refile charges in 2007 deaths of Iraqi boysDecember 3, 2012
By Carl Prine
AS SADAH, Iraq — The Department of Justice has legal authority to review criminal charges the military declines to prosecute, as in the case of two unarmed Iraqi boys shot to death by an Army …