[JURIST] US Marines involved in the death of 24 civilians in Haditha [JURIST report] last November concealed and destroyed evidence relating to the incident, the New York Times reported Friday. According to top military officials speaking to the Times who have been briefed on an investigation completed last month by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell [Wikipedia profile], the unit's logbook, which reports all activity within the unit, had missing pages from November 19, the date of the incident. The Bargewell report has not yet been released to the public, but the two officials also said that an aerial video did not support statements made by Marines that the deaths occurred in a firefight resulting from a roadside bomb attack, and that the Marines did not hand over the video until Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, demanded it.
The report has been reviewed by Chiarelli [JURIST report] and turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [official website], which is looking into the murder allegations and probing higher ranking officers [JURIST report] suspected of facilitating the incident through poor leadership and perhaps even covering it up. Lieutenant General James Mattis [official profile], commander of the US Marine Corps in the Middle East, is expected to decide whether to charge the Marines involved by next week. Earlier this month, NCIS completed its initial investigation [JURIST report], finding that the evidence supported accusations that the Marines murdered the civilians. The Bargewell report is already said to have found several "red flags" and suspicious incidents [JURIST report], but supposedly refrains from drawing conclusions or making outright accusations of murder. The New York Times has more.