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Haditha Investigation Finds Military Press Reports Inaccurate

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Aired 4/19/09

Eight Marines were charged Thursday in the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha last year. Four of the Marines are accused of killing innocent civilians, including women and children. Four more senior Marines face charges of dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

A nine month military investigation into what actually happened in Haditha in November 2005 concludes the original military press reports on the event were not true. 

Chief of Staff of Marine Corps Installations West, Colonel Stewart Navarre,  says a query from a Time Magazine reporter in January led to scrutiny of how the chain of command reported and investigated the Iraqi deaths.

Colonel Stewart Navarre:   We now know with certainty the press release was incorrect and that none of the civilians were killed by the IED explosion.

An IED (Improvised Explosive Device) explosion did hit the Marines’ convoy of Humvees, killing one marine. But the charges against the Marine squad leader Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich allege that while searching nearby homes, he told his men to shoot the occupants without positively identifying that they had anything to do with the bomb.

After the charges were read, Darryl Sharratt, the father of one of the squad members said he feels the Marines have let his son’s squad  down. 

Darryl Sharratt: They followed the rules of engagement and the reason the rest of those Marines are still alive is because they followed their training and did what was right.

None of the Marines charged is in custody, though some of the charges carry penalties of up to life in prison. A commanding officer will decide after further investigation whether the case should go to court martial. Alison St John, KPBS News.

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