A pre-dawn US raid this morning in the Iraqi city of Kut left two civilians dead and several others captured. Hundreds of local residents took to the streets to condemn the raid, while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared the attack a violation of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Iraq. He ordered two Iraqi security officials arrested over it, demanded the release of the captives, and for the US to turn over those responsible for the raid to the courts.
As is so often the case the official press release from US forces remained far disconnected from reality. It alleged that those captured included a “financier” for a Shi’ite militant group and six other “associates.” It also perplexedly claimed they were captured without incident even while describing the killing of two people, one they determined was “hostile” while the other was a woman.
It wasn’t long, however, until provincial police declared that those captured were all innocent members of a single family, including an Iraqi police captain.
The press release from the US makes no mention of the Iraqi government’s objection, instead lauding the raid as “supporting Iraq in its effort to maintain security and stability.” In spite of this, the US had released the captives by late afternoon. The head of the household said “if the Americans had only knocked, we would have cooperated.” Another said the US had apologized and returned the property seized in the attack. The SOFA made no provisions for the US to conduct raids on homes without a search warrant from an Iraqi court, though there was no indication they had one.
The question then remains how far the Iraqi government is willing to go to prosecute the US troops involved in the incident. US officials claim Maliki’s position was “politically motivated,” but the SOFA does make provision for trying US soldiers in Iraqi courts.