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Navy Medic Describes Civilian's Death in Iraq

Melson Bacos (center), arrives for his court-martial proceedings at Camp Pendleton, California.
Melson Bacos (center), arrives for his court-martial proceedings at Camp Pendleton, California.

At Camp Pendleton in California, a Navy corpsman agrees to testify in general courts-martial against seven U.S. Marines who are accused of murdering an Iraqi man. Petty Officer Melson Bacos has accepted a plea agreement; he will no longer face murder charges.

Bacos, 21, admitted to being present at the killing of an Iraqi civilian last April near the village of Hamdania.

Military authorities allege that Marines on patrol with Bacos pulled Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home and shot him to death before staging his remains to make it appear he was an insurgent trying to plant a bomb.


Bacos confirmed that version of events Friday, saying that the Marines were incensed that a man who they were convinced was an insurgent had been let out of jail. All the men agreed that if their target was not at home, they would attack someone at random.

Awad was a neighbor of the man, who wasn't home when they sought him out.

Bacos said that he urged the men to let Awad go, but they refused. Instead, he said, they put Awad in a hole and shot him numerous times. A rifle and a shovel were placed near Awad, to make the case that he was caught planting road-side explosives.

Their plan included getting clearance from their superiors to return fire on an insurgent. While squad leader Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins was speaking with their base, Bacos fired an AK-47 into the air to complete the ruse.

Awad's fingerprints were then planted on the gun, Bacos said.


Until Bacos agreed to testify, he and the Marines had maintained a united front against the charges. Seven Marines are in the brig for Awad's murder.

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