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Pendleton Marine: My Squad Leader Shot Hands-in-the-Air Civilians

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Aired 4/19/09

A Camp Pendleton Marine says his former squad leader cleared the way for servicemen to kill Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha. The military is investigating the deaths of two dozen civilians in 2005. It's the biggest military murder case since the Iraq war began. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps has details.

Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich could face 17 counts of unpremediated murder. The Marine admitted killing several people in Haditha, but he says the killings were legal under military combat rules.

In a pre-trial hearing, Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz recalled a conversation with Wuterich over a smoke break. The squad had just been hit by a roadside bomb. He said Wuterich commented that if they were ever hit again, the men should kill everybody in the vicinity to teach the Iraqis a lesson.

The squad was hit again, and a fellow Marine died. 24 Iraqi civilians were killed in the chaos that followed. Dela Cruz says Wuteriwch shot people who had their hands up in the air.

Defense attorneys question the testimony against Wuterich because they say Dela Cruz changed his story several times.

Andrew Phelps, KPBS News.

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