US army appoints lawyer in Kosovo murder case

WASHINGTON, Jan 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Army said on Thursday it had appointed a military lawyer to conduct a pretrial investigation in the case of a U.S. peacekeeping soldier charged with killing an ethnic Albanian girl in Kosovo last week.

In an announcement from Camp Bondsteel, the U.S. military peacekeeping headquarters in Kosovo, and released at the Pentagon, the Army said Maj. Paul Kantwill had been appointed to investigate the case against Staff Sgt. Frank Ronghi.

Ronghi, 35, was earlier transferred to a U.S. military jail in Germany to await a decision on whether and where he will be court-martialed on charges that he killed an 11-year-old girl on Jan. 13. Her body was found in the countryside near Vitina in southwestern Kosovo.

Officials said it was the first time that a military peacekeeper from any country has been accused of such serious crimes since the 50,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force entered the province on June 12.

Ronghi is accused of both premeditated murder and committing indecent acts with the victim.

The suspect is a weapons squad leader from the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But he was serving in Kosovo with U.S. forces from Germany.

Pentagon officials said this week that no decision had been made on where Ronghi would be court-martialed, if such a trial is recommended.

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