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Iraq Transition

Executions must be condemned, U.S. says

Story Highlights

• U.S. military calls on all Iraqi leaders to condemn killing of 15 Iraqi police
• Video posted by Sunni insurgent group shows the men being shot in the head
• Insurgents say killings are retaliation for an alleged rape of a Sunni woman
• The Iraq prime minister has said the rape claims are false
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military is calling on all Iraqi leaders, Sunni and Shiite, to condemn the recent kidnapping and killing of 15 Iraqi police officers in retaliation for the alleged rape of a Sunni woman.

"With many influential leaders making the same statement, the population will realize that these terrorists are not the future of Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of U.S.-led troops in Diyala province, where the police officers were killed on Friday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office confirmed Saturday that a video posted on an al Qaeda-connected Web site showed the execution of the police officers who were kidnapped on Thursday.

The video, posted by a Sunni insurgent group called the Islamic State of Iraq, shows a group of Iraqi men blindfolded in a room. In the final 21 seconds, the video cuts to a scene showing the men lined up, kneeling in a field, before they are shot in the back of the head.

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killings in retaliation for an alleged rape that has aggravated the already deteriorating ties between Sunnis and Shiites.

Shiite government leaders, including al-Maliki, say the rape allegation was fabricated and is serving to undermine the government's effort to target all insurgents, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation.

Sunni leaders believe the alleged victim is telling the truth and are outraged by the officials' response.

Al-Maliki also questioned whether retaliation was the actual motive of those behind the police officers' killings.

"These groups claim they did it in response to the claimed rape of Sabrin al-Janabi, and they want to negotiate for the lives of the officers responsible for this false incident, and quickly killed the kidnapped men as they have done many times before," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Al-Janabi made her claim on Arabic language TV network, al-Jazeera.

Al-Maliki vowed to track down the killers and make sure they "get the punishment that they deserve."

"We consider the parties which propagate the lie of the rape responsible for this massacre," the statement added.

In a statement February 21, al-Maliki said medical examinations proved the woman had not been sexually assaulted.

The woman accused Iraqi security officers in the Adil Sunni district in western Baghdad of raping her February 20.

Mixon, the commander of Task Force Lightning in Multinational Division-North, said the Iraqi police "were murdered in cold blood."

Their killings are "a clear sign to Iraq that the insurgents are desperate, under a great deal of pressure, and are resorting to heinous acts to further their cause," he added.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Thomas Evans contributed to this report


SPECIAL REPORT

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• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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