Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was confronted with fresh rape claims against his Shiite-dominated security forces on Thursday after a 40-year-old Sunni woman accused soldiers of attacking her in her home.
The allegations came just days after a 20-year-old Sunni woman in Baghdad accused police of gang-raping her, sparking a political furore that has laid bare the bitter sectarian divide between majority Shiites and minority Sunni Arabs.
The Islamic State in Iraq group, which includes Sunni Islamist al Qaida and several minor insurgent groups, vowed an “earth-shaking response” to the alleged rapes. The group is blamed for some of the worst bombings in Iraq.
Brigadier Nijm Abdullah al-Jubouri, the mayor of the northern city of Tal Afar, said an army officer and three soldiers had been detained in connection with the second rape case after a formal complaint was made on Wednesday.
He said the soldiers had confessed to raping the woman, a mother of 11 and a member of Iraq’s Turkmen minority, during a raid about 10 days ago and were now awaiting trial.
A senior army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrests.
A video of the woman, wearing a black head cover and face veil showing only her eyes, was broadcast on Wednesday night by Qatar-based al-Jazeera television, which has repeatedly fallen foul of the Shiite-led government over its Iraq coverage.
‘Say goodbye to your children’
The woman, calling herself Wajida Hamid Amin, said a group of soldiers had raided her home and asked her if she knew the whereabouts of terrorists.
“They asked me about some persons and I swore that I do not know them. They said: ‘We will kill you ... Go and say goodbye to your children.’”
She said the rape had been filmed by the officer, apparently on his mobile telephone. Asked why she had not come forward earlier, she said: “To whom? ... The town is like a prison.”
Tal Afar is mostly home to Turkish-speaking ethnic Turkmen who are divided between Shiite and Sunni Muslim believers. Some Sunnis there have complained that the arrival of Shiite- dominated Iraqi security forces has led to oppression and discrimination.
‘A sectarian attack’
Amin did not say whether her attackers were Sunni or Shiite, but the politically and culturally sensitive allegations are a headache for the government, which has accused “unknown parties” of seeking to discredit a major security crackdown in Baghdad.
There was no immediate response from the prime minister’s office to the latest claims. On Wednesday the office released a report from the U.S. military hospital in Baghdad that treated the first complainant. It showed no signs of any attack.
“The Islamic State in Iraq ... will not stand still in the face of these violations against our kin and you will see an earth-shaking response,” said a posting on a Web site used by Sunni insurgent groups.
A member of the Turkmen Front, the biggest Turkmen political party in Iraq, said the video of Amin had been organized by local tribal leaders, who wanted to pressure the government into take action against the military, which he said targeted Sunnis.
“This is a sectarian attack that aims to displace Sunnis from Tal Afar,” he said.