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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Woman soldier in abuse spotlight
Lynndie England
Lynndie England says she has been made a scapegoat
A US soldier from a West Virginia backwater was thrust into the spotlight after she was identified as one of the troops pictured apparently abusing Iraqi prisoners.

In one of the photographs that shocked the world, Lynndie England is pictured with a leash tied round the neck of a crumpled Iraqi prisoner.

In another, she is smiling with a cigarette hanging from her lips, pointing a mock gun at the genitals of a naked prisoner in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail.

The 21-year-old has for months been held in detention at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, waiting to hear whether the army would proceed with charges against her.

She has been demoted from the rank of specialist to private first class and been dubbed an "anti-Jessica Lynch" - a reference to the US private rescued in Iraq, who for some became a national heroine.

Trailer park

Miss England joined the army as a reservist after leaving high school. She left for Iraq in February 2003.

Picture of Iraqi prisoners being abused in Abu Ghraib jail (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
England did not expect to be a prison guard (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)

According to the Baltimore Sun newspaper, she grew up in a trailer parked down a dirt road behind a saloon and a sheep farm in Fort Ashby, West Virginia. Her father was a railway worker.

Her mother, Terrie, told the newspaper that her daughter joined the army to see the world and to go to college.

Miss England reportedly had ambitions to become a meteorologist. She expected a desk job in the army, a friend said.

Instead, she found herself helping to guard hundreds of Iraqi prisoners. She became engaged to a fellow soldier, Charles Graner, who appears with her in one of the published photographs.

'Big joke'

Her mother said she was shocked by the photographs, but described the alleged abuses as "stupid, kid things - pranks".

"And what the [Iraqis] do to our men and women are just? The rules of the Geneva Convention, does that apply to everybody or just us?" Terrie England said.

She's never been in trouble. She's not the person that the photographs point her out to be
Destiny Gloin, friend

She is bitter at the way her daughter has been treated for being, as she told the Washington Post, "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

"The government turned their back on her, and everything's a big joke," she added.

The soldier's friends are apparently standing by her.

Destiny Gloin told ABC news: "She's never been in trouble. She's not the person that the photographs point her out to be.

"I love her, and I'm not ashamed of her."

Back in January, Lynndie had an inkling of what was to come. In a phone call from Baghdad, she reportedly told her mother "there might be some trouble".

Just what that trouble was eventually became clear to the world.

Speaking out

Five other members of her unit, the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cresaptown, Maryland, are facing proceedings in connection with the alleged abuse. Specialist Jeremy Sivits has already pleaded guilty to charges and been sentenced to a year in prison.

Families and friends of the other soldiers have also started to speak out.

"They were following orders," a relative of one of the soldiers told the BBC. "Now it's the upper military looking for fall guys."

But another woman was less supportive.

"I think it's disgusting," she said. "It never should have happened."

The BBC's Clive Myrie
"Many here are struggling with the rights and wrongs of an ugly war"

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