Wounds suggest Marines executed Iraqis at Haditha

LA Times:

Photographs taken by a Marine intelligence team have convinced investigators that a Marine unit killed as many as 24 unarmed Iraqis, some of them "execution-style," in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha after a roadside bomb killed an American in November, officials close to the investigation said Friday.

The pictures are said to show wounds to the upper bodies of the victims, who included several women and six children. Some were shot in the head and some in the back, congressional and defense officials said.

One government official said the pictures showed that infantry Marines from Camp Pendleton "suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership, with tragic results."

The case may be the most serious incident of alleged war crimes in Iraq by U.S. troops. Marine officers have long been worried that Iraq's deadly insurgency could prompt such a reaction by combat teams.

...

Most of the fatal shots appear to have been fired by only a few of the Marines, possibly a four-man "fire team" led by a sergeant, said officials with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The same sergeant is suspected of filing a false report downplaying the number of Iraqis killed, saying they were killed by an insurgent's bomb and that Marines entered the Iraqis' homes in search of gunmen firing at them. All aspects of his account are contradicted by pictures, statements by Marines to investigators and an inspection of the houses involved, officials said.

Other Marines may face criminal charges for failing to stop the killings or for failing to make accurate reports.

Of the dead Iraqis, 19 were in three to four houses that Marines stormed, officials said. Five others were killed near a vehicle.

The intelligence team took the pictures shortly after the shooting stopped. Such teams are typically assigned to collect information on insurgents after firefights or other military engagements.

...

Military officials say they believe the delay in beginning the investigation was a result of the squad's initial efforts to cover up what happened. Military and congressional sources said there was no indication that the members of the intelligence team did anything improper or delayed reporting their findings.

...
There is more. It is the most detailed account of events in Hadita I have seen so far. It confirms a loss of disipline and poor leadership by at least on staff NCO. So far the media has not been as hysterical about this event as they were about Abu Ghraid. It will be interesting to see if they maintain their own disipline and give these Marines a fair trial.

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