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U.S. soldier Spc. Brent May, 22, of Salem, Ohio, faced a military court Monday charged with murdering an Iraqi man in Baghdad’s Sadr City, an impoverished Shiite Muslim quarter of the capital which was the scene of fierce clashes this year between U.S. troops and insurgents.

May is attached to Company C, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment from Fort Riley, Kan., and was charged in September on three counts of premeditated murder. But at Monday’s hearing, conducted on a U.S. military base, officials ordered May to face just one charge. It was not immediately clear why the number of charges were reduced.

May did not enter a plea during the Article 32 case, the military equivalent of a civilian preliminary hearing, and was not called on to testify. But five members of his unit who witnessed the alleged killing gave evidence to military defense and prosecution lawyers.

Aviano airman pleads guilty to theft

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — An airman assigned to the 31st Communications Squadron has pleaded guilty at court-martial last week to charges of stealing someone else’s mail.

Airman 1st Class Eileen Bishop was charged with two specifications of stealing mail and another of opening someone else’s mail. She was sentenced to three months’ hard labor without confinement, reduction in rank to E-1 and forfeiture of $300 pay for three months.

Suit contests extended enlistments

WASHINGTON — Eight soldiers are challenging the Army’s policy requiring them to serve longer than the terms of their enlistment contracts.

In a lawsuit being filed Monday in federal court, the soldiers are seeking a judge’s order requiring the Army to immediately release them from service.

“The Army made an agreement with me and I expected them to honor it,” said David Qualls, one of the plaintiffs. He signed up in July 2003 for a one-year stint in the Arkansas National Guard but has been told he will remain on active duty in Iraq until next year.

Under the Pentagon’s stop-loss program, the Army can extend enlistments during war or national emergencies as a way to promote continuity and cohesiveness.

The policy, invoked in June, could keep tens of thousands of personnel in the military beyond their expected departure. The policy was also used during the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War.

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