US Marines in Haditha 'acted with restraint'

LOS ANGELES - The officer who led the US Marine Corps platoon accused of killing 24 civilians in Haditha said his unit acted with restraint and a "strong moral compass" in previous battles.

First Lieutenant Jesse Grapes, 27, led the 43-man 3rd platoon of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during months of fighting so fierce that three in the platoon were killed and about half were wounded.

He left the platoon in August 2005, three months before the incident in which some men who had been under his command are alleged to have killed innocent Haditha civilians in anger over the death of a beloved comrade.

"They served their country with honour and courage, and were guided by a strong moral compass," he said. "There were incidents where it could have been easy for them to lose that compass, and they never did."

He said that only once did he see a Marine fire a gun "in anger" off mission - at an insurgent who had just set off a bomb. That Marine was Miguel Terrazas - who later died in the Haditha roadside bombing.

- REUTERS

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