Baghdad lawmakers blast US over alleged attack
Demand pledges for justice in rape-slaying case
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi lawmakers blasted the United States yesterday over an alleged rape-slaying case, while a southern governor said he was resigning amid fears that Iraqi forces cannot handle security once coalition troops transfer responsibility there this month.
Two women legislators called for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to be summoned to parliament to give assurances that justice would be done in the March 12 slaying of four members of a family in Mahmoudiya. A teenage girl allegedly was raped before being killed.
Former Private First Class Steven D. Green was charged Monday in federal court in North Carolina with murder and rape. At least four other US soldiers still in Iraq are under investigation, and the military has stressed it is taking the allegations seriously.
Justice Minister Hashim Abdul-Rahman al-Shebli, a Sunni Arab, denounced the purported attack as ``monstrous and inhuman" and called on the UN Security Council ``to stop these violations of human rights."
The two lawmakers, Safiya al-Suhail and Ayda al-Sharif, said condemnation was not enough.
``We demand severe punishment for the five soldiers involved," Sharif said. ``Denouncements are not enough. If this act has taken place in another country, the world would have turned upside down."
The alleged March 12 attack on the Sunni Arab family in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, was among the worst in a series of cases of US troops accused of killing and abusing Iraqi civilians.
The case came to light last week as Maliki's new government was seeking to promote its national reconciliation program -- a key step in the US strategy to transfer security responsibility to the Iraqis so US and other coalition forces can go home.
As part of that strategy, coalition troops plan to hand over security this month to the Iraqis in Muthanna, a generally peaceful southern province dominated by Shi' ite Muslims. Muthanna will be the first province handed over to Iraqi forces in its entirety.
Yesterday Governor Mohammad Ali Hassan resigned, effective as soon as British and Australian forces transfer responsibility, probably next week. Provincial police chief Colonel Mohammed Najim Abu Kihila stepped down, effective immediately.
Provincial council member Mohammed al-Zayadi cited ``the deteriorating security situation" as the reason for the shake-up.
The moves followed a council meeting in Samawah during which nearly 300 policemen who were fired stormed into the local government headquarters to protest the loss of their jobs. One council member said he was beaten by former policemen, who broke into his house the night before to protest their dismissals, witnesses said.
Japan is in the process of withdrawing from its base near Samawah, the capital of the sparsely populated desert province 230 miles southeast of Baghdad.
British and Australian troops also are preparing to leave after Maliki said Iraqi forces would be ready to take over security responsibilities in Muthanna.
The shake-up raises questions about whether Iraqi security forces in the province are ready for the responsibility.
``We reject the transfer of security from the coalition forces to the Iraqi forces because security will deteriorate more and more," one council member said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The transfer program is a key element in the US plan to set the stage for a withdrawal of the 127,000-member American military force as support for the war wanes in the United States.
However, Maliki's government, which took office in May, is still struggling to clamp down on the rampant violence sweeping Baghdad and Sunni Arab areas of the country.
In the latest violence, gunmen in camouflage uniforms kidnapped Deputy Electricity Minister Raed al-Hares and 11 of his bodyguards in eastern Baghdad. But they were released several hours later, officials said without elaboration.
The kidnapping occurred three days after gunmen seized female Sunni legislator Tayseer al-Mashhadani in a Shi' ite area of east Baghdad. She and seven bodyguards remain missing.
In Mahmoudiya, Mayor Mouayad Fadhil said Iraqi authorities have started their own investigation into the alleged rape-murder.
FBI documents estimated the alleged rape victim was about 25. But a doctor at the Mahmoudiya hospital gave her age as 14.