BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP -An influential Sunni organization in Iraq said Sunday that allegations U.S. soldiers raped an Iraqi woman, then killed her and her family were “a sign of shame to the American invaders.”
U.S. officials have said a group of American soldiers entered the home of a Sunni family in the insurgent-ridden town of Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, raped and killed the woman, then set fire to her body and killed three of her family members in an apparent cover-up attempt.
The Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars condemned the alleged crimes and said “raping this girl then mutilating her is shameful and will remain as a sign of shame to American invaders.”
The allegations threaten to stoke public anger in the wake of a series of other cases of U.S. troops accused of killing and abusing Iraqi civilians, although Iraqi media have so far paid little attention to the case.
The U.S. military has stressed it is taking the allegations seriously and a criminal investigation has been launched to determine who should stand trial.
“We can’t undo anything that has happened, but we can and will hold accountable anybody found guilty of offenses,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said in an e-mail.
“Before that happens, we must be given time to conduct a thorough investigation into the facts of what occurred,” he said. “The rule of law will prevail in this incident.”
Iraq is a conservative, strongly religious society where many women are sheltered from contacts with males who are not family members.
“The mean behavior and terrible violations committed by the invaders show the truth of the ugly American face and shows that their claims of supporting humanity and liberation are false,” said the Sunni association, a strong critic of U.S.-led efforts in Iraq.
“We call the world and all humanitarian organizations as witnesses to this ugly crime and urge them to face the American recklessness that went way too far,” it added.
U.S. officials investigating the case said they knew of the deaths but thought the victims died as a result of sectarian violence. A local police official, Capt. Ihsan Abdul-Rahman, said Iraqi officials received a report March 13 alleging that American soldiers had killed the family in the Khasir Abyad district about 6 miles north of Mahmoudiya.