Monday, July 03, 2006

Iraq clerics say rape case shows 'ugly America'

Iraq clerics say rape case shows 'ugly America'
Sun Jul 2, 2006 9:30 PM IST

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - News of the alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman by U.S. soldiers and the killing of her family "reveals the real, ugly face of America", Iraq's main organisation of Sunni Muslim clerics said on Sunday.

The Muslim Scholars Association, a fierce critic of the U.S. occupation, was a rare voice raised in anger, however, with few Iraqi media willing to broach the taboo topic of rape since U.S. commanders revealed their investigation on Friday.

"(We) condemn this grotesque crime and say to the entire world ... it reveals the real ugly face of America," the Association said in a statement on its Web site.

"This act committed by the occupying soldiers, from raping the girl to mutilating her body and killing her family, should make all humanity feel ashamed."

Coming after announcements of U.S. investigations into other suspected murders and killings, including that of 24 people in the western town of Haditha, the added element of rape may cause particular outrage in Iraq's conservative Muslim society.

But only one major Baghdad newspaper carried an account of the case, in which at least three soldiers face investigation over the rape and the killing of the Iraqi woman and three other people in the family home at Mahmudiya, just south of the city, in March.

As with previous allegations of abuse by American troops, such as the 2004 scandal over prisoners maltreated at Abu Ghraib jail, Iraqis' initial reactions appear muted partly due to the widespread view that such misconduct is already common and partly due to embarrassment about discussing such subjects.

In recent months, officials say, commanders have cracked down on rogue soldiers in a bid to gain the trust of ordinary Iraqis and of their new government after three years of growing resentment that U.S. officers say risks fuelling the insurgency.

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