Pentagon Haditha inquiry finds false testimony

WASHINGTON - A US military inquiry into whether Marines tried to cover up the killings of Iraqi civilians in Haditha will conclude that some officers gave false reports to their superiors, who then failed to scrutinize the information, according to a newspaper report on Thursday.

The Washington Post, citing an unidentified Army official, said the three-month investigation was also expected to call for changes in how US troops are trained for duty in Iraq.

The investigation is one of two ongoing military probes into the November 19 killings of 24 men, women and children in the town of Haditha, 200 km northwest of Baghdad in an area that has seen much activity by Sunni Arab insurgents.

The newspaper reported that the Army official said there were multiple failures but declined to say whether he would characterize it as a 'coverup' as alleged by Rep. John Murtha.

The Pennsylvania Democrat, a decorated retired Marine, is a vocal critic of the war in Iraq.

The Post said a final report on the probe, led by Army Maj. General Eldon Bargewell, was expected to be delivered to top commanders by the end of the week.

A new focus on training would begin as early as Thursday when Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, was expected to order all US and allied troops in Iraq receive "core values" training, the newspaper reported.

"Not only will leaders discuss how to treat civilians under the rules of engagement, but small units also will be ordered to go through training scenarios to gauge their understanding of those rules," the report said.

There was no immediate comment from a US Central Command spokesman in Baghdad.

A separate ongoing military inquiry found evidence that the killings in Haditha were unprovoked, contradicting an account of the incident by US Marines, US officials said yesterday.

The probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, responsible for cases involving Marines, might lead to charges including murder, officials said.

- REUTERS

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