Pentagon probes alleged marine 'rampage' in Iraq
The Pentagon has begun a criminal investigation after graphic videotape surfaced suggesting U.S. marines killed at least 15 unarmed civilians in November in the Iraqi town of Haditha.
- INDEPTH: Iraq
The tape was shot by a young Iraqi journalism student and given to an Iraqi human rights organization. It was later acquired by U.S.-based Time magazine.
It shows the bodies of several women, a child and a number of men who had been shot to death on Nov. 19, 2005, many in their homes. The rights group said three children were among the dead.
"This is my father," a boy says on the tape. "He didn't do anything wrong. Why did they kill him?"
"These are children," a man tells the videographer. "Are you telling me these are terrorists?"
- FROM MARCH 19, 2006: Killing continues on Iraq invasion's third anniversary
A day after the deaths, the U.S. Marine Corps said "the blast of a roadside bomb" had killed one of their members, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, as well as 15 Iraqi civilians.
However, the videotape clearly shows the civilians died of bullet wounds, not shrapnel from what the marines called an "improvised explosive device."
After receiving the tape, Time magazine's staff interviewed eyewitnesses. Time reported that the witnesses allege the marines "went on a rampage in the village after the attack."
Insurgents to blame, military spokeswoman says
However, Lieut. Col. Michelle Martin-Hing, who speaks on behalf of the international force stationed in Iraq, told Time that blame for the deaths belongs to insurgents in the area.
She said they "placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the marines responded to defend themselves."
The most recent explanation from the marines maintains that some of the civilians were killed in crossfire as U.S. soldiers battled insurgents from house to house after the bomb killed Terrazas.
Others died when explosives were tossed into houses where militants were suspected to be hiding, the marines say.
Eight insurgents also died in the battle, the military says.
Accused of 'buying into enemy propaganda': Time
The U.S. military conducted a preliminary review of what happened in Haditha. Time reported on Sunday that the case has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to determine whether criminal charges should be laid.
A Time magazine senior international correspondent, Aparisim Ghosh, told CBC News that the U.S. Marine Corps accused the magazine of "buying into enemy propaganda" when its reporters started asking about the Haditha incident 10 weeks ago.
Haditha is located within the so-called Sunni Triangle, where many Sunni Muslim militants are based.
The marines had suffered a heavy toll during attacks in the town only three months before the Nov. 19 incident.
- INDEPTH: Iraq timeline
Six marines died in an attack near Haditha in August 2005. Two days later, a roadside bomb explosion outside the city killed 14 marines and a civilian interpreter.
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