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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqis demanded on Tuesday their new government launch its own inquiry into the suspected rape and murder of a teenager and the killing of her family by U.S. soldiers after one American was charged in a U.S. court.
"We demand a full investigation by the Iraqi Justice Ministry, international bodies and the (U.N.) Security Council to end these violations," Justice Minister Hashem al-Shibly said, describing it as a "horrific, barbaric and inhuman" crime.
The rape element makes the case, the fifth U.S. inquiry into killings of Iraqi civilians in recent months, potentially more damaging for the military in its already fraught relations with Iraqis and the nation's increasingly independent-minded leaders.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Washington face sensitive negotiations, before a U.N. mandate expires in December, on a treaty to govern the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil.
Iraq's government, dependent on U.S. support, is not going to demand the Americans leave. But pressure is growing, not just from the restive and once dominant Sunni minority but also among Maliki's fellow Shi'ites, for signs the troops will soon depart.
Washington's senior commander, General Peter Pace, assured: "We are going to get to the bottom of these allegations."
Taboos on discussing rape in Iraq's Muslim society have muted public commentary after U.S. commanders said on Friday they were investigating four killings in a family home in March.
But the indictment of discharged soldier Steven Green, 21, on Monday appeared to loosen tongues. The former private is accused of shooting a couple and their young daughter near a checkpoint, then raping and killing the child's teenage sister.
Three other U.S. soldiers are suspected of taking part.
"People should rise up because this is a matter of honour. What has happened to this girl today may happen to our sisters and wives tomorrow," said Baghdad resident Hussein al-Shimeri.
Officials in Mahmudiya, near Baghdad, said they were holding an inquiry but that no national investigation was under way.
Ahmed Hamed, also speaking in Baghdad, said: "The Iraqi government should take a clear stand and put an end to disgraceful acts by the U.S. against the Iraqi people."
In a sign of the sensitivities, however, Iraqiya state television only belatedly covered the case, noting Green's U.S. court appearance in its foreign news -- after a report on the Mexican election. Later bulletins dropped the item altogether.
Maliki, who has voiced impatience with U.S. "mistakes" since forming his unity coalition six weeks ago, has been silent.
One of the first big newspapers to report the case, Azzaman, criticised the government on Tuesday. "A crime by a U.S. soldier against a pure Iraqi girl has Iraqi politicians bowing their heads and fiddling with their ears, pretending they have not heard of it," Fateh Abdul Salam wrote in an opinion piece.
Describing sanctions against a handful of soldiers jailed over the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal of 2004 as "holiday camp punishments", he forecast more of the same.
The Janabi family's fate especially vexes fellow Sunnis. Their main clerical body called it the "ugly face of America".
U.S. commanders, anxious to leave behind a friendly Iraq, acknowledge the harm of cases like Abu Ghraib and allegations U.S. soldiers killed 24 civilians at Haditha. Last month, they pressed 12 murder charges, more than in the last three years.
(Additional reporting by Aseel Kami and Hiba Moussa)
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