News From The Associate Press
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s prime minister denounced a deadly U. S. raid Sunday as a “crime” that violated the security pact with Washington and demanded that American commanders hand over those responsible to face possible trial in Iraqi courts.
The U. S. military, however, strongly denied that it overstepped its bounds and said that it notified Iraqi authorities in advance — in accordance with the rules that took effect this year governing U. S. battlefield conduct.
The pre-dawn raid in the southern Shiite city of Kut ended with at least one civilian woman dead after being caught in gunfire and six suspects arrested for alleged links to Shiite militia factions.
But efforts were quickly begun in an attempt to tone down the dispute.
The six detainees were released, said Major Gen. Read Shakir Jawdat, head of the provincial police that includes Kut. At the same news conference, U. S. Army Col. Richard M. Francey offered condolences to the family of the woman killed.
The fallout marks the most serious test of the security pact so far and could bring new strains during a critical transition period.
U. S. forces plan to move out of most major Iraqi cities by the end of June in the first phase of a promised withdrawal from the country by the end of 2011.
A statement from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — in his role as commander general of Iraqi forces — called the raid a “violation of the security pact.” He asked the U. S. military “to release the detainees and hand over those responsible for this crime to the courts,” according to an Iraqi security official.
Elsewhere in Iraq, gunmen stormed two Christian homes in separate attacks in the ethnically diverse city of Kirkuk, killing at least two Chaldean Christians and one Assyrian, said police Brig. Burham Taib.
The northern city is a fault line between the majority Kurds and Arabs, but also includes ethnic Turks and various Christian groups. A U. N. report given to Iraqi leaders last week recommends giving Kirkuk a “special status” with oversight by the Kurd region and the central government in Baghdad.
In Kut, the cascade of protests and questions began just hours after the sweep into Kut, which the U. S. military said targeted suspected backers of Shiite militias believed to have links to Iran.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the mosque in Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, to decry the American action and demand an investigation.
The provincial council then called an emergency meeting and a three-day mourning period. The Iraqi Defense Ministry also ordered the arrest of two high-ranking Iraqi officers for their alleged roles in allowing U. S. forces to operate in Kut.
The U. S. military said that its troops acted within the framework of the security pact, saying “the operation was fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government.”
Being elected supreme leader, Obama must be held responsible!