US Marines 'failed to investigate Haditha killings'

WASHINGTON - US Marine officers at every level up to and including the colonel who commanded the regiment failed to investigate conflicting reports of the killing of Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year, CBS News reported today.

Despite evidence that initial reports the civilians died in a roadside bomb attack were false, the report said that no Marine officer in the chain of command questioned the original account, CBS reported.

The military said earlier today that General George Casey, the top US military commander in Iraq, had been sent a report on whether there was a cover-up of Marines' involvement in the killings.

"Chiarelli completed his findings and recommendations today and forwarded copies of the report to the commander (of) Multi-National Forces-Iraq," the military said in a brief statement. It gave no indication of the findings.

Chiarelli received the findings of the investigative team headed by Maj Gen Eldon Bargewell three weeks ago.

A separate Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into the role of Marines in the killing of civilians in Haditha could lead to murder charges.

The probe was one of a series into alleged misconduct by US troops in Iraq. The Haditha case in particular has drawn comparisons with the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

The Marine Corps has instructed commanders to retain documents related to the killing of Iraqi civilians both in Haditha and Hamdania, because Congress will likely hold hearings and request the information, according to a memo obtained by Reuters.

Seven Marines and a Navy medic have been charged with premeditated murder and other crimes in the April killing of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania, a village west of Baghdad.

- REUTERS

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