The US State Department has strongly condemned the reported killings of gay men in Iraq.

In a department press briefing on Wednesday, spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed that the US embassy in Baghdad has raised the issue with Iraqi government officials.

Gay campaigners have criticised the US embassy in Baghdad and the State Department for failing to address the issue.

In answer to a question from a reporter, Kelly said: “We absolutely condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is an issue that we’ve been following very closely since we have been made aware of these allegations, and we are aware of the allegations.”

He added: “The US embassy in Baghdad has raised and will continue to raise the issue with senior officials from the government of Iraq, and has urged them to respond appropriately to all credible reports of violence against gay and lesbian Iraqis.”

However, Kelly would not comment on recent remarks made by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.

According to Sadr’s spokesman, the religious leader ordered that the “depravity” of homosexuality must be eradicated, yet urged an end to violence against gays and lesbians.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq but religious leaders condemn it.

Two gay men were found dead in the Baghdad Shiite slum of Sadr City In April following condemnations of homosexuality by a leading local cleric.

A further four were murdered in March after the Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat allegedly repeatedly condemned homosexuality in Friday prayers.

Last week, Iraqi LGBT said it had evidence of the Iraqi government’s involvement with militia groups advocating violence and murder towards gays.

However, a statement from the US embassy which said there no was evidence of government involvement was described as “offensive and insulting” by the group.

Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT said that politics is preventing the US from stepping in to help, claiming that Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Obama’s administration will not upset the Iraqi government as they have no other allies within the country.