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Army: 5 soldiers implicated in 3 Afghan killings

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June 7, 2010 10:25 PM EST | AP

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FORT LEWIS, Wash. — Five soldiers from the same Washington state-based unit have now been implicated in the killing of three Afghan civilians, an Army spokeswoman said Monday.

The Army said Friday that Spc. Jeremy Morlock had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder and one count of assault.

On Monday, Lt. Col. Tamara Parker, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord spokeswoman, said "there is enough evidence to say that five may be charged," although Morlock is the only one charged so far.

A second soldier is being held in confinement in Kuwait, and the others three remain with their unit in Afghanistan, she said.

Like Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, the others are assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Morlock deployed in July 2009 with his unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He returned to the Washington state base Thursday, was charged Friday and has been placed in pretrial confinement.

The charges against Morlock involve three separate events alleged to have occurred between January and May at or near Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Afghanistan, Parker said. She said she had no further details on the victims or circumstances.

Parker said she could provide no additional information on the other four soldiers because they are not under Fort Lewis jurisdiction.

"Because they are from the same unit, we anticipate the others may return here but we don't know," she said.

A senior military official said last month that about 10 members of an Army unit based at Fort Lewis have been under investigation for as many as three civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

The official did not have details of the investigation but confirmed that the 5th Stryker Brigade was under scrutiny.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of an investigation being conducted in Afghanistan.

The maximum penalty for conviction for premeditated murder would be life in prison or the death penalty, Parker said. Army prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty in Morlock's case.

Parker said she has asked whether Morlock's Army trial defense counsel wants to make a statement on Morlock's behalf but has not yet received a reply.