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Iraqi Leader Calls for Inquiry in Rape, Murder Case


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Today, Iraq's Prime Minister spoke out on the alleged rape and murder of a young girl and her family by U.S. soldiers. Nouri al-Maliki said he wants to see either an independent Iraqi investigation or a greater Iraqi role in the U.S. military investigation. The rape and murders have fueled anger against U.S. soldiers, with Iraqis calling for the accused to be killed.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports from Baghdad.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

It's not the first time Nouri al-Maliki has publicly expressed frustration with the way the U.S. military operates in Iraq. Last month, when allegation surfaced of mass killings in the town of Haditha, Maliki said some troops had no respect for Iraqis and that they killed on suspicion or a hunch. He called the allegations over Mahmudiyah a violation of Iraqi honor and said Iraqis should be part of this latest investigation.

Prime Minister NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraq): (Through translator) We believe that the immunity given to members of the international forces is what emboldened them to commit such crimes in cold blood. This requires that such immunity should be reconsidered. We say we should be involved in investigating the crimes committed against Iraqis.

TARABAY: But some Iraqis aren't waiting. In Mahmudiyah itself, a rural town south of Baghdad, local authorities have begun their own investigation into what happened there in March.

People in Mahmudiyah have named Abeer Qasim Hamza as the girl who was raped and then killed, and say she was 15, contrary to statements by U.S. criminal investigators that she was 14. The younger sister, Hadeel(ph), they say, was seven. The U.S. investigators list her as six years old.

An Iraqi NPR reporter who asked not to be named spoke to residents of Mahmudiyah, who said they went to the house the day after the incident because they saw signs there'd been a fire. They believe the soldiers who allegedly carried out the carnage were drunk because, they say, there were empty beer cans in one room.

Some residents claim to have found buttons and hair in the dead girl's hand. They said they found her with her dress pulled up to her neck. Her head was resting on the pillow, and that the pillow, her head and her hair were burned.

In the U.S., former Army Private First Class Steve Green was charged this week with rape and four counts of murder in a federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's charged as a civilian because he was discharged from the Army in May.

There are at least four other American soldiers still in Iraq under investigation. In Baghdad, U.S. military spokesman Major General Bill Caldwell wouldn't comment while the incident was under investigation, but promised that if proven guilty, the forces involved would be held accountable.

General BILL CALDWELL (U.S. Army): We will face every situation honestly. We will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of the facts and will hold our service members accountable if and when found guilty of misconduct in a court of law.

TARABAY: Caldwell said the investigators were trying to get forensic analysis from the scene and they've been working with the family to examine the bodies. Steve Green was discharged before the incident came to light because of a personality disorder. He could face the death penalty if he's convicted. If that happens, Iraqi supermarket owner Amar Altahi(ph) wants to see it done here, in Iraq, by Iraqis.

Mr. AMAR ALTAHI (Iraqi resident): (Through translator) I want them to be crucified at the same house they committed the crime. And the Iraqis who live in Mahmudiyah, the relatives, the neighbors of the woman, the father and the girls, get to punish them. That would satisfy me.

TARABAY: Money changer Ishmael Ibrahim(ph) has little hope that justice will come to pass, no matter where a trial is held.

Mr. ISHMAEL IBRAHIM (Iraqi resident): (Through translator) If it's an American trial, they won't blame the soldier. If it's an Iraqi trial, then it will be under the control of the American occupation forces.

TARABAY: Ibrahim says those who are guilty should face Islamic law.

Mr. IBRAHIM: (Through translator) An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And the guilty must accept this from the avenger. In our creed, the criminal must be stoned to death.

TARABAY: All the investigations are continuing.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.