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US Marines prepare charges in Haditha Iraqi civilian killings

[JURIST] The US military is close to charging at least five US Marines in connection with the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [JURIST report] last November, a military spokesperson said late Tuesday. Though specific details have not yet been disclosed, some Marines may be charged with murder and others with the lesser charge of negligent homicide. 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.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, the US Marine commander in charge of the Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment [official website] implicated in the Haditha incident, told the Washington Post in August that he did not order an immediate investigation into the deaths because he did not suspect any wrongdoing [JURIST report]. Lt. Gen. James Mattis [official profile], the officer responsible for determining whether to charge the Marines involved, attracted press attention in 2005 when he told a panel discussion that "It's fun to shoot people" [CNN report]. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

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