U.S. Officials: U.S. soldiers plotted rape, murder

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Monday, July 3, 2006

U.S. officials said on Saturday, "Allegations known so far are that two soldiers allegedly raped an Iraqi woman and then allegedly one of the soldiers may have killed four Iraqi civilians located within that residence -- the woman, two other adults and a child." An official also said that investigators believe that American soldiers spent almost a week planning the attack before they raped an Iraqi woman and then murdered her and her family.

Apparently the allegations surfaced when an enlisted soldier disclosed he had heard that soldiers from his unit might have taken part in a rape and murder in March.

Investigators then "followed up and they interviewed a second soldier who said, 'Yes, I heard something similar,' ... but in the version he had heard, that the soldier or soldiers had returned from the alleged crime with blood on their uniforms," the U.S. official said.

Capt. Ihsan Abdul-Rahman, a local Iraqi police official, said a report on March 13 alleged that American soldiers had killed the family in the Khasir Abyad district but that he did not relay that report to American forces.

Al-Jazeera gave extensive coverage to the rape and murder allegations and one of the U.S. forces officials told The Associated Press that gasoline or lighter fluid was used to burn the woman's body in a cover-up attempt.

The U.S. official said at least four soldiers are being investigated while two other U.S. officials said on Friday that five were under investigation with one already having been discharged for unspecified charges unrelated to the killings and was believed to have returned to the United States.

A U.S. military statement issued in Baghdad said that the army was investigating an incident in which soldiers "allegedly killed a family of four Iraqi civilians in their home in the area of Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. A preliminary inquiry conducted found sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation into the incident," the military said, adding that the "CID investigation began on June 24, and is ongoing."

U.S. Major General James Thurman said: "We are all about values, we are about standards in our military and our soldiers are disciplined, and I know that our commanders are constantly reiterating those type of things."

The U.S. military is also investigating allegations that US marines killed 24 civilians, including 10 women and children, in the Euphrates valley town of Haditha last year. In addition, two US soldiers were charged last week with voluntary manslaughter for the killing of an unarmed Iraqi civilian outside his home. And this month a sailor and seven marines were charged with premeditated murder, kidnapping, and other offenses for the killing of a reportedly handicapped Iraqi in the town of Hamdania near Baghdad in April.

Major General Thurman said soldiers under his command had recently participated in a "values training" program.