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Bush promises punishment for any Marines who violated laws of war at Haditha

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush on Wednesday publicly expressed concern about the alleged killings of 24 Iraqi civilians by US Marines [JURIST report] in the city of Haditha in November 2005, declaring that any soldiers found guilty would be punished. Asked about the incident at a White House photo op, Bush said:

I am troubled by the initial news stories. I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, the laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this: I've talked to General Pete Pace about the subject, who is a proud Marine, and nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is full of men and women who are honorable people who understand rules of war. And if, in fact, these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that that culture, that proud culture will be reinforced, and that those who violated the law, if they did, will be punished.
While General Pace, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to comment [JURIST report] on the ongoing US military investigation into the incident on Monday, an anonymous top DOD official told AP last Friday that it has already revealed evidence [JURIST report] suggesting that murder may have occurred. Following military briefings of the House and Senate leaders on the incident, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) appeared [JURIST report] on ABC's This Week and described Haditha as "worse than Abu Ghraib" for the US, saying the killings had been committed "in cold blood."

The military's latest investigation was launched in March [JURIST report] after a TIME magazine report [text] alleged that the soldiers may have killed civilians without justification after a roadside bomb killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas. The soldiers may have violated the US law of war [UCMJ provisions] and the international law of armed conflict [ICRC materials] if they committed murder and/or failed to positively identify the enemy and determine whether there was hostile intent before firing on civilians. Read the full text of Bush's Wednesday appearance with President Kagame of Rwanda here.

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