"They then dragged me to a room and raped me. One of them filmed the incident and warned to go public and publish the pictures if I do not co-operate," she said. 

'Immoral act'

"One of the soldiers did not approve. He wanted to stop his mates by threatening them with weapons because it is an immoral act"

Abdullah Al-Juburi, local mayor
The local mayor, Brigadier General Najim Abdullah Al-Juburi, said he received a complaint from a local woman "a few days ago" and after a brief investigation had referred the troops to the judiciary for prosecution.

 

Abdullah described the victim as a married mother of 11 children aged in her forties.

 

"We received a complaint from the citizen ... that a group of soldiers entered her house few days ago and raped her. They were four soldiers and one officer," Abdullah said.

 

"One of the soldiers did not approve. He wanted to stop his mates by threatening them with weapons because it is an immoral act.

 

"But the rape took place anyway."

 

Abdullah said that a military panel had decided to press charges against the four attackers after investigating the incident.

Tensions

The latest accusation is likely to further stoke Shia-Sunni tensions already simmering over the earlier rape allegation.

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Sabrine al-Janabi said she was raped by three Iraqi policemen last weekend, an allegation dismissed as false by the Shia-run government.

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, pardoned the three officers after a short investigation which lasted less than a day.

Al-Maliki insists the charge was fabricated by Sunni politicians to discredit the police and the ongoing security crackdown in Baghdad.

Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, called for political leaders to show restraint as legal proceedings into the allegations of rape began.

  

"The constitution protects the rights of all Iraqis, so we call on everybody to show restraint in their statements and to give a chance for independent justice to run its course," he said.

Al-Maliki also fired a top Sunni official who called for an international investigation into the woman's allegations.

Unfair dismissal?

Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, the head of the Sunni Endowment, a government body that caters to the needs of Sunni mosques and religious establishment throughout the country, was fired on Wednesday.

Al-Maliki's office gave no reason for dismissing al-Samarrai.

On Monday, al-Samarrai said the rape allegations proved the failure of US and Iraqi security forces to protect Baghdad's citizens.

Following his dismissal, al-Samarrai, speaking from Amman in neighbouring Jordan, said al-Maliki lacked the authority to fire him. He also reiterated his demand for an international investigation.

"We will continue to speak with courage, and we will not fear anyone but God," al-Samarrai said.

"I am not concerned about a job because the honour of Iraqi women is a thousand times more valuable than government jobs," he said.