The U.S. army is investigating reports that five American troops raped a young Iraqi woman, burnt her body and killed three members of her family, The Associated Press news agency reported.Reply
The army said it launched a criminal investigation into the March incident, which took place in the southern town of in Mahmoudiya.
"The entire investigation will encompass everything that could have happened that evening. We're not releasing any specifics of an ongoing investigation," said military spokesman Maj. Todd Breasseale.
"There is no indication what led soldiers to this home. The investigation just cracked open. We're just beginning to dig into the details,” he added.
However, a U.S. official familiar with the case said at least one of the accused soldiers has admitted to committing the horrible crime, and has been arrested.
The army had taken away the weapons of at least four other accused troops, and confined them to a U.S. army base in Mahmoudiyah, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.
All the soldiers belong to the 502nd Infantry Regiment. Two troops from the same regiment have been killed earlier this month after they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near the southern town of Youssifiyah.
The official said the crime in Mahmoudiyah appear to be unrelated to the abduction but that a soldier felt that he must report the incident after the bodies of his colleagues were found.
The rape and the killings appeared to have been a "crime of opportunity," the source said, adding that the accused troops hadn’t been attacked in the area and that they’d seen the women frequently during their patrols.
Recent incidents of indiscriminate shootings of innocent Iraqi civilians have generated unfavorable publicity for the U.S. military and provoked international criticism of the United States, especially after a U.S. army probe into the killings of civilians in Ishaqi, a village north of Baghdad, cleared soldiers of misconduct, even though it acknowledged the death of up to 13 Iraqis in the March raid.
The Mahmoudiyah incident came to light days after the U.S. army admitted that it killed a “non-combatant” during a raid near Baquba, 65 km northeast of Baghdad.
The army claimed that the civilian was killed as U.S. forces were “securing the house of an alleged al-Qaeda member.”
The U.S. army is currently investigating other crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq, including the killing of 24 unarmed civilians in the town of Haditha last November.
Criminal charges have been filed against U.S. soldiers in some cases.
Last week, the U.S. military charged seven Marines and one sailor with premeditated murder, kidnapping and conspiracy over the April 26 killing of a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi civilian.
Four more U.S. soldiers were charged with premeditated murder after being accused of shooting three male Iraqi prisoners north of Baghdad last May and then threatening to kill a fellow soldier if he spoke about the killings.
Also this month, the U.S. army admitted that three Iraqi civilians were killed after an artillery shell hit their house near the town of Hibhib (some 20 km north of Baquba).
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