Thursday, December 21, 2006

US charges over Haditha killings


The US military is to announce charges against a group of marines accused of killing Iraqi civilians in Haditha.
Twenty-four men, women and children died in the incident in November 2005.

The US military initially said they were killed in a roadside blast and exchange of fire but subsequent reports alleged the US soldiers killed them.

Lawyers for the marines have said they did not act outside the laws of war. It is not clear whether the charges filed will include murder.

Defence lawyers say the men from Kilo Company in America's First Marine Division were engaged in a furious battle on 19 November 2005 in Haditha after a roadside bomb exploded, killing one marine and injuring two others.

It is known that five unarmed men were shot dead in a car when they approached the scene in a taxi and others, including women and children, died in three houses over the next few hours.

Those who died included a 76-year old man, and a three-year-old child. There were also several women among the dead.

An initial marine press statement said that some civilians were killed in the initial explosion and others in crossfire by insurgents.

But local people say that there was no bullets fired other than by the marines.

The defence lawyers accept that innocent civilians may have died during the chaos but they deny pre-meditated killing.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has called the deaths a "terrible crime".

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says it seems certain that charges are going to be filed but that the big question is whether those charges will include murder. .....

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