The U.S. military said on Tuesday it was investigating Iraqi police allegations that its soldiers shot dead a family of 11 in their home last week.
The probe comes a day after a magazine published allegations that U.S. Marines killed civilians in another town in November. A criminal inquiry into those deaths was launched last week.
Time magazine said a patrol went on a rampage after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha, west of Baghdad. It published detailed accounts by townspeople.
Last Wednesday in Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, police accused U.S. troops of shooting dead 11 people, including five children, while the military said only four people were killed in all.
“Because of that discrepancy, we have opened an investigation,” Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a senior U.S. spokesman in Baghdad, said on Tuesday.
Accusations that American soldiers often kill innocent people has fuelled anger at the occupation among Iraqis over the past three years. They also complain that little disciplinary action has resulted in the few cases that are investigated.
'A clear and perfect crime'
Police in Ishaqi, 60 miles north of the capital, said five children under school age, four women and two men were shot dead by troops in a house that was then blown up.
“It’s a clear and perfect crime without any doubt,” said local police Colonel Farouq Hussein at the time, saying autopsies had found that all the victims were shot in the head.
The bodies, their hands bound, had been dumped in one room before the house was destroyed, Hussein said.
A U.S. military spokesman at the time said the four dead included a guerrilla and said they died after troops were fired on from the house as they arrived to arrest an al-Qaida suspect.
Major Tim Keefe said: “Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building ... Coalition Forces returned fire utilizing both air and ground assets.
“There was one enemy killed. Two women and one child were also killed in the firefight. The building ... (was) destroyed.”
Haditha civilians shot dead
Like Ishaqi, near Samarra, Haditha in western Anbar province is in an area that has seen much Sunni Arab insurgent activity.
On Nov. 20, U.S. Marines spokesman Captain Jeffrey Pool issued a statement saying that on the previous day a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians and a Marine. In a later gunbattle, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed eight insurgents, he added.
U.S. military officials have since confirmed to Reuters that that version of the events of Nov. 19 was wrong and that the 15 civilians were not killed by the blast but were shot dead.
Time magazine said this week that video of the corpses it provided to the military in January had prompted the revision.
Among other cases in Anbar last year, an investigation was launched in July into the killing of a cousin of Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations. The envoy said the young man’s shooting in his home near Haditha was “cold-blooded murder”.
The results of the investigation have not been published.
This week, Time quoted residents of Haditha accusing Marines of shooting dead the civilians in their homes. Among those quoted was nine-year-old Eman Waleed, who said she remembered troops pointing their guns through the door of her living room.
“I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head,” she said. “Then they killed my granny.”