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Senior US Iraq general finds Marine commanders at fault in Haditha probe

[JURIST] Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, chief of US ground forces in Iraq, has found several Marine commanders negligent in their handling of an investigation into the shooting deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] at Haditha [JURIST news archive] in November, and has recommended disciplinary action for some, according to Defense Department officials quoted in the New York Times Saturday. US Central Command [official website] announced Friday that Chiarelli had completed his review [CENTCOM press release] of an as-yet-unreleased report by Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell [Wikipedia profile] completed [JURIST report] three weeks ago. Officials say the review and the report point to several failures by Marine commanders in the wake of the Haditha killings, including the absence of proper inquiry, inadequate follow-up of questions and inconsistencies, and no correction of a military press release that originally attributed the deaths to a roadside bomb. Chiarelli has forwarded his conclusions and recommendations to top US Iraq commander Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and has been tasked with disclosing the results of the investigation to the public as soon as possible. The New York Times has more.

On Thursday, the Marine Corps distributed a memo [Reuters report] directing its personnel to preserve all past and future documentation, including e-mail, relating to the incident in Haditha and another in Hamdania [JURIST report] in anticipation of Congressional hearings on the matters. A separate probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [official website] is investigating whether Marines on the ground killed unarmed civilians without provocation. Expected to conclude later this summer, the Pentagon's preliminary investigation in February and March found evidence that the killings were not provoked [JURIST report]. The Marine commander of the platoon implicated in the Haditha deaths has said that his unit followed the rules of engagement [JURIST report] and did not purposefully attack civilians. Reuters has more.

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