Wednesday, February 21, 2007

U.S. Weighs in on Iraq Rape Case

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military on Wednesday weighed into the politically explosive case of a Sunni woman allegedly raped last weekend by three Iraqi policemen, announcing its own investigation after the Shiite-run government dismissed her allegations as false.

The announcement, made to reporters by the chief military spokesman, appeared aimed at containing the growing political storm. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's exoneration of the three officers after an investigation lasting less than a day has enflamed Sunni-Shiite tensions over a case that strikes at the heart of Iraqi attitudes toward protection of women.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, stoked the political flames further Wednesday by firing a top Sunni official who called for an international investigation into the woman's allegations, which were broadcast Monday by satellite television stations across the Middle East.

Rape is considered not only an assault on the victim but a grave offense against her entire family and community. The allegations harkened back to the dark years of Saddam Hussein's rule, when wives and daughters were raped in front of their husbands and fathers to exact confessions from the men.

Al-Maliki insists the charge was fabricated by Sunni politicians and extremists to discredit the police and the ongoing security crackdown in Baghdad. He announced a "reward" for the officers who were implicated. ....

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