An Iraqi newspaper run by Sunni Muslims traded charges on Monday with the United States-led occupation authority over the alleged rape of two Iraqi girls by US soldiers, a claim denied by the coalition.
According to the daily As-Saah, the girls, aged 14 and 15, were talking to American soldiers in Suwaira, 180km south of Baghdad, on Friday when the soldiers suggested they accompany them to their camp to take pictures but then collectively raped the pair.
This allegation is "absolutely false", the US Central Command said in a statement.
"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.
As-Saah said one of the girls died after she was raped by 18 soldiers while the other was killed by her family. Editor Naama Abderrazzak told AFP two of the daily's reporters had talked to residents of the area and seen the bodies of the two girls.
"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 insisted he had asked his staff to thoroughly check the story and it was definitely true.
Pedophiles Exploit the Besieged Children of Basra
Who Really Murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman?