US soldier charged with sex murder of Kosovar girl

BELGRADE, Jan 17, 2000 -- (AFP) A U.S. soldier was charged Sunday with the sexual assault and murder of a 12-year-old ethnic Albanian girl, the chief of staff of US forces in southeast Kosovo said.

Staff Sergeant Frank Ronghi, 35, was arrested late Thursday in the southeastern Kosovo town of Vitina after a U.S. patrol found the body of the girl about one mile (three kilometers) outside the town.

She was apparently killed earlier the same day, said Colonel Ellis Golson, in charge of the predominantly U.S.-run southeast sector of the international peacekeeping force KFOR.

Ronghi, of the 504th parachute infantry regiment based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was charged with "murder and indecent acts with a child," he said.

The commander of the regional force, Brigadier General Ricardo Sanchez, met local leaders in Vitina late Saturday to express the military's "heartfelt and deepest condolences," US army spokeswoman Debbie Allen said.

But Sanchez stressed the "tragic" killing was "an isolated individual criminal act that will be dealt with appropriately."

Ronghi was being held in the vast U.S. base of Camp Bondsteel, near the southeastern town of Gnjilane. He will be transferred to a U.S. military prison in Mannheim, Germany, later this week, Allen said.

The U.S. military is investigating the exact circumstances of the killing and the cause of death, which had not been formally determined, Allen said.

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