Iraqis have been protesting US
occupation since Hussein's fall

According to the daily As Saah newspaper, the incident occurred on Friday when the girls aged 14 and 15, were talking to American soldiers in Suwaira, 180 kilometres south of Baghdad.

The soldiers suggested the girls accompany them to their camp to take pictures - but then collectively raped the pair.

The newspaper reported that one of the girls died after she was raped by 18 soldiers while the other was killed by her family.

Editor Naama Abderrazzak told the French news agency AFP that two of the newspaper’s reporters had talked to residents of the area and seen the bodies of the two girls.

US Central Command responded to the allegation calling it, “absolutely false.”

"We take any claim of this nature extremely seriously, have looked into the allegations and found nothing whatsoever to substantiate the accusations - including checking local hospital records," it said.

"After conducting a thorough investigation into this supposed account, we know this report is inaccurate, irresponsible, and purposefully attempts to damage the credibility of our forces and our efforts to create a secure and stable environment for the people of Iraq," CENTCOM said.

But Abderrazzak insists he had asked his staff to thoroughly check the story and confirm its validity.

"Everyone in Suwairi is aware of this episode and it wouldn't take the Americans long to investigate it," he said.   

The CENTCOM statement claims that As Saah supported the deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party when they were in power.

US soldiers have been convicted
of rape in the past

"The As-Saah newspaper clearly and blatantly abused its recently attained freedom to report responsibly to the Iraqi people," the CENTCOM statement said.

As Saah’s managing editor Adeeb Shaaban, who has been in US custody for 10 days, was an aide of Hussein’s elder son Uday and head of the Iraqi Photographers Union.

The newspaper has been in circulation since the fall of the Hussein government on 9 April.
 
US forces said they would "take every step necessary to correct this report and ensure the Iraqi media becomes a credible source of information for the public."

Abderrazzak said he had not been approached by occupation troops and had learned of the denial only from the AFP reporter who interviewed him.

"Let the coalition prove that our report is false and I will fire the two journalists (who wrote it). So far, they haven't," he said.

Previous rape cases

If confirmed, it would not be the first time US soldiers would be involved in rape allegations.

  • In 1995  three US servicemen were convicted for raping a 12-year-old in Okinawa, Japan. They received sentences ranging from six to seven year jail terms.
  • In March of 2002, US airman Timothy Woodland was convicted for raping a 24-year-old woman in a car park at the shopping complex near the Kadena airbase in Japan. He received a three year jail term.