GIs May Have Planned Iraq Rape, Slayings
Saturday, July 1, 2006; 3:00 PM
BEIJI, Iraq -- Investigators believe American soldiers spent nearly a week plotting an attack in which they raped an Iraqi woman, then killed her and her family in an insurgent-ridden area south of Baghdad, a U.S. military official said Saturday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the attack appeared "totally premeditated" and that the soldiers apparently "studied" the family for about a week before carrying out the attack.
According to the official, the Sunni Arab family had just moved into a new home in the religiously mixed area about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The Americans entered the home, separated three family members from the woman, then raped her and set fire to her body, the official said. The three others were also slain. A senior Army official who also requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing said one of the victims was a child .
U.S. officials said they knew of the deaths but thought the victims died due to 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.
He said he did not relay that report to American forces.
The satellite channel Al-Jazeera gave wide coverage to the alleged rape-slaying, which threatens to stoke public anger in the wake of a series of other cases of U.S. troops allegedly killing and abusing Iraqi civilians.
An Iraqi human rights activist in Amman, Jordan, pointed to other abuse allegations, in the western Iraqi town of Haditha, and called for international intervention.
"What happened in Mahmoudiya and Haditha are extreme violations of human rights. We call on the international community to intervene immediately," Mohammed al-Shekhli, head of the head of the Transitional Justice Studies Center, said in an interview with the pan-Arab satellite station.
However, Iraqi media has so far paid little attention to the allegations. There was no comment from the government, which has been focused on restoring security since it took office in May.
One of the officials familiar with details of the investigation told The Associated Press that a flammable liquid was used to burn the woman's body in a cover-up attempt. It was unclear if it was gasoline or lighter fluid.
If convicted of premeditated murder, the soldiers could receive a death sentence under U.S. military law.
The U.S. official said at least four soldiers were being investigated. Two other U.S. officials said Friday that five were under investigation but one already had been discharged for unspecified charges unrelated to the killings and was believed to be in the United States.
The U.S. command has said only that Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. forces in the Baghdad area, had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged slaying of a family of four.
Those troops under investigation are from the same platoon as two soldiers kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad this month, another official said Friday. Their mutilated bodies were found June 19, three days after they were abducted by insurgents near Youssifiyah, southwest of Baghdad.
The military has said one and possibly both of the slain soldiers were tortured and beheaded. The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one member of the platoon to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.
The senior Army official said the alleged incident was first revealed by a soldier during a routine counseling-type session. The Army official said that soldier did not witness the incident but heard about it.
A second soldier, who also was not involved, said he overhead soldiers conspiring to commit the crimes and then later saw bloodstains on their clothes, the Army official said.
Iraq is a conservative, strongly religious society where many women are sheltered from contacts with males who are not family members.
The case is among the most serious against U.S. soldiers allegedly involved in the deaths of Iraqi civilians. At least 14 U.S. troops have been convicted.
Last week, seven Marines and one Navy medic were charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of an Iraqi man near Fallujah west of Baghdad.
In Haditha, U.S. officials are investigating allegations that U.S. Marines killed two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians Nov. 19 in a revenge attack after a fellow Marine died in a roadside bombing.
Other cases involve the deaths of three male detainees in Salahuddin province in May, the shooting death of unarmed Iraqi man near Ramadi in February, and the death of an Iraqi soldier after an interrogation in 2003 at a detention camp in Qaim.
Associated Press correspondent Ryan Lenz is embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in Beiji, Iraq. He was previously embedded with the 502nd Infantry Regiment in Mahmoudiya. AP writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Bassem Mroue in Baghdad contributed to this report.