NEW: Official says investigators looking at allegations involving up to seven enlisted soldiers
They are accused of sexual misconduct involving female minors
NEW: Investigators look at online dating website and responses to profiles of women
Sexual assault in the military has drawn increasing attention in recent months
Authorities are investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by several soldiers from Fort Carson in Colorado, officials said Wednesday. The allegations involve female minors, they said.
“The command is aware of the cases and is closely monitoring the investigations of these soldiers,” said a statement released by base officials. They did not provide further information, citing an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
“We assure the community that the Army is taking this situation seriously,” the statement said.
A U.S. Army official said the investigation is being conducted by the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
Fort Carson is on the south side of Colorado Springs.
According to the official, investigators are looking into allegations that up to seven junior – or low-level – enlisted soldiers joined a an “online social dating” website and responded to profiles of women they believed to be at least 18 years old, according to their online profiles. It’s believed some or all of them had sex with the women, who turned out to be under age for legal consent.
The defense official said the soldiers “did not advertise for sex” and told investigators they did not know the women were underage.
Two sets of incidents are under investigation: one from April to July of 2013 and another from March to June of 2013.
The troops were from various units at Fort Carson, the official said. It’s not known if any of the men or women knew each other prior to the incidents.
The official emphasized that the investigation is ongoing.
The military has come under pressure this year with recently released figures showing an increased rate of reported assaults.
Recent high-profile cases have involved officers in the Air Force and the Army. The U.S. Naval Academy is also faced with a sex assault case involving football players.
President Barack Obama and military leaders have vowed change. Legislation in the Senate would remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. A recent report from a government watchdog found that in many cases the military did not properly investigate sexual assault claims.