BEIJI, Iraq – A group of American soldiers in an insurgent-riddled town allegedly noticed a young Iraqi woman when on patrol and later returned to rape her, according to U.S. officials Friday. In an apparent cover-up attempt, she and three members of her family then were killed and her body was set on fire.
Five U.S. troops are being investigated, according to a U.S. military official. It is the fifth pending case involving alleged slayings of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops.
The suspects in the killing, which took place in March, were from the same platoon as two soldiers who were kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad this month, said the official, who is close to the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
One soldier was arrested after admitting his role in the alleged attack on the family, the U.S. official said. The official said the rape and killings appear to have been a “crime of opportunity,” noting that the soldiers had not been attacked by insurgents but had noticed the woman on previous patrols.
One of the family members they allegedly killed was a child, said a senior Army official who also requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Some of the suspects allegedly burned the woman’s body to cover up the attack, the U.S. official said.
In Baghdad, the U.S. military issued a sparse statement, saying only that Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged slaying of a family of four in Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad.
However, the U.S. official said the soldiers were assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment. The official said the suspects were from the same platoon as two slain soldiers whose mutilated bodies were found June 19, three days after they were abducted by insurgents near Youssifiyah southwest of Baghdad.
The official said the reported beheading of at least one of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one member of the platoon to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.
Also Friday, the military reported the deaths of three soldiers in separate insurgent attacks on Thursday.