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US Marine captain to face charges in Haditha Iraqi civilian killings case

[JURIST] A lawyer for a US Marine captain implicated in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [JURIST report] last November said Monday that his client has been informed that he will face criminal charges. Capt. Lucas McConnell has been told that he will face dereliction of duty charges, but his lawyer expressed surprise at the pending charges, saying his client was not present when the civilians were killed. A military spokesman said earlier this month that the military was close to charging at least five Marines [JURIST report] in the killings and those charges are now expected to come Thursday.

The 24 deaths prompted two separate military investigations: one conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) [official website], aimed at determining whether to prosecute the soldiers involved, and an investigation into decisions made by Marine leadership led by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell [Wikipedia profile]. An anonymous US official familiar with the NCIS investigation, speaking in May, suggested the Marines murdered in cold blood [JURIST report], and the probe concluded in August that evidence exists [JURIST report] to support murder allegations. Bargewell's report [JURIST report] has not yet been released, but officials briefed on the investigation said that there was evidence that soldiers concealed and destroyed evidence [JURIST report] relating to the incident and were reluctant to hand over evidence. AP has more.

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