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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 13:01 GMT
Iraq PM sacks 'rape case' critic
Nouri Maliki
Maliki said officers were innocent hours after the inquiry started
Iraq's prime minister has sacked an official who demanded an international enquiry into the alleged rape of a Sunni woman by Iraqi security forces.

Moving to quash disquiet in his mixed government, Nouri Maliki, who is Shia, also released a copy of a US medical report saying no rape had taken place.

Mr Maliki has accused opponents of using the story to discredit Iraq's Shia-dominated security forces.

The woman says she was raped after a wrongful arrest for helping insurgents.

The allegation and ensuing controversy comes as the Shia-led government is pushing a new security plan that will see mainly-Shia police units being deployed in predominantly Sunni Muslim districts.

Sunni politicians have accused the police of perpetrating a series of human rights abuses on their community and of turning a blind eye to attacks on them by Shia militants.

Unidentified

A statement by his office did not say why the head of the Sunni Waqf (religious endowments authority), Ahmed Abdul-Ghafour Samarrai, had been fired.

Correspondents point out that Mr Samarrai had joined other prominent Sunnis in criticising the government's handling of the case.

Iraqi woman who made rape accusation
The woman made emotive claims about her treatment by police
On Tuesday, Mr Maliki said he had ordered an investigation into the allegations. Hours later, he said the three officers under suspicion had been exonerated.

The document issued on Wednesday is a "theatre trauma nursing record" from Ibn Sina Hospital, located in Baghdad's international Green Zone and run by the US military.

The handwritten report says in English and Arabic that there were "no vaginal lacerations or obvious injuries". The patient's name is blanked out.

The 20-year-old woman, who made the allegation in an emotional interview with the Arabic TV network al-Jazeera, has not been identified.

The New York Times reported that a nurse, speaking on condition of anonymity, said she had treated the woman at a clinic in her neighbourhood of Amil and had seen signs of sexual and physical assault.

US military officials have neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the document. They added that they did not know how confidential medical records had ended up at the prime minister's offices.

Correspondents say the case has the potential to cause a major upset in relations between Sunni and Shia Muslims - already severely tested by worsening sectarian bloodshed.

Thursday is the first anniversary of a watershed event - the bombing by Sunni extremists of an important Shia shrine in Samarra, sparking an upsurge in sectarian violence that has cost thousands of lives.




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