- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006

BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers criticized the United States yesterday over a purported rape-slaying case, while a southern governor said he was resigning over 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 served in the March 12 slaying of four members of a family in Mahmoudiya. A teenage girl purportedly was raped before being killed.

Former Pfc. Steven D. Green was charged Monday in federal court in North Carolina with murder and rape. At least four other U.S. soldiers still in Iraq are under investigation.

Justice Minister Hashim Abdul-Rahman al-Shebli, a Sunni Arab, denounced the purported attack as “monstrous and inhuman” and called on the U.N. Security Council “to stop these violations of human rights.”

The two women lawmakers, Safiya al-Suhail and Ayda al-Sharif, said condemnation was not enough.

“We demand severe punishment for the five soldiers involved,” Mrs. al-Sharif said. “Denouncements are not enough. If this act has taken place in another country, the world would have turned upside down.”

The attack on the Sunni Arab family in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, was among the worst in a series of cases of U.S. troops accused of killing and abusing Iraqi civilians.

Mahmoudiya Mayor Mouayad Fadhil said Iraqi authorities have started their own investigation into the case. Iraqi authorities identified the rape victim as Abeer Qassim Hamza.

The other victims were her father, Qassim Hamza; her mother, Fikhriya Taha; and her sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza. FBI documents estimated the rape victim was about 25, but a doctor at the Mahmoudiya hospital gave her age as 14. He refused to be identified, for fear of reprisals.

The case came to light last week as Mr. al-Maliki’s new government was seeking to promote its national reconciliation program — a key step in the U.S. strategy to transfer security responsibility to the Iraqis so U.S. 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 that Shi’ite Muslims dominate. Muthanna will be the first province handed over to Iraqi forces in its entirety.

Yesterday, however, Gov. Mohammad Ali Hassan resigned his post effective as soon as British and Australian forces transfer responsibility, probably next week. Provincial police chief Col. 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.

Japan is in the process of withdrawing its 600 troops from their 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.

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