[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 14:08 GMT
Iraqi soldiers charged with rape
Talafar map
Four Iraqi soldiers have been charged with raping a Sunni Muslim woman in Talafar, northern Iraq, officials say.

Brig Gen Nijm Abdullah, who acts as mayor, said the men had confessed.

It is the second time this week that members of Iraq's security forces have been accused of serious sexual assault of Sunni women.

The first case prompted a row between senior Sunni figures backing the allegations, and the Shia-led government, which has denied them.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has said the accusations in the first case were fabricated by Sunni groups trying to undermine the Shia-dominated security forces.

Identity parade

Gen Abdullah said he had received a complaint from tribal leaders that a group of soldiers had entered the woman's house "a few days ago" and raped her.

They threatened me that if I did not co-operate they would... cause me a scandal
Alleged rape victim

"One of the soldiers did not approve. His name is Mushtaq Taleb from Basra. He wanted to stop his comrades by threatening them with weapons because it is an immoral act, but the rape took place anyway," Gen Abdullah added.

He said he had referred the troops to the judiciary for prosecution.

The woman is thought to be a 40-year-old married mother of 11 from Iraq's Turkoman minority.

The defendants are identified as a lieutenant and three enlisted men.

Iraqi woman who made rape accusation
The woman in the first case said she was raped by three policeman

It has not been confirmed if they are Shia Muslims, which could further raise sectarian tensions in Iraq.

Basra, in southern Iraq, has an overwhelmingly Shia population.

Gen Abdullah said the troops initially denied the charge but later confessed when the woman picked them out at an identity parade.

He said the officer's only role in the alleged attack was filming it with a cell phone video camera.

The woman appeared on al-Jazeera television on Thursday, saying: "They threatened me that if I did not co-operate they would... cause me a scandal."

When asked why she did not report the attack, she said: "Who do I complain to? No-one allows us to complain."

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says that in conservative Muslim societies, rape carries a special stigma and victims seldom speak out for fear of shaming their families.

Doctors' report

The earlier rape was alleged to have taken place in the Amil district in Baghdad.

A 20-year-old woman said she was raped by three policemen in a police station where she was taken after a search of her house.

Mr Maliki published what he said was a US doctors' report saying no sexual assault had taken place, but the US military has not confirmed its authenticity.

The officers were cleared within a day, sparking claims of a cover up by Sunni politicians.

Mr Maliki sacked a Sunni official who demanded an international inquiry into the case.

The new US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, has ordered any relevant evidence on the earlier case to be handed over to "the appropriate Iraqi judicial official in accordance with US policy".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific