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Allegations of Haditha massacre and cover-up spark investigations

ABC News | June 1, 2006
By Kim Landers

TONY EASTLEY: US President George W. Bush says he's troubled by reports of an alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians, including women and children, by US Marines last November.

The troops were accused of going on a killing spree in the city of Haditha and then trying to cover up what happened.

The incident has sparked two investigations, one into the deadly encounter itself and another into whether it was the subject of a cover up.

Washington Correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: A preliminary military inquiry has found that US Marines shot and killed two dozen Iraqis, including children and an elderly man in a wheelchair.

12-year-old Safa Younis was getting ready for school when she says Marines entered her home, killing eight relatives.

SAFA YOUNIS (translated): They killed my father in the kitchen. They killed my mother, and my sister Noor. They killed her when they shot her in the head. She was only 15 years old.

My other sister was shot with seven bullets in the head. She was only 10 years old.

KIM LANDERS: The incident happened in mid-November, but it's taken months to surface and only today has the President spoken publicly about it.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I am troubled by the initial news stories. I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, the… you know, the laws were broken there'll be punishment.

KIM LANDERS: Witnesses say the Marines went on a rampage after a roadside bomb killed 20-year-old Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas.

Corporal James Crossan was wounded in the same attack, and while he didn't witness the killings he's offered an explanation for why his fellow Marines may have committed such an atrocity.

JAMES CROSSAN: They might have got scared or they were just really pissed off.

KIM LANDERS: Haditha is in the insurgent-plagued, Sunni-dominated Anbar province.

JAMES CROSSAN: Like, after seeing so much death and destruction, pretty soon you just become numb and really don't think about it anymore.

KIM LANDERS: The Marines are facing possible murder charges.

One senior military officer, Brigadier General Carter Ham, has no doubt that the credibility of US forces has been eroded.

CARTER HAM: Simply the allegation that US Military personnel have acted improperly, it does have an effect. There's no question about it.

KIM LANDERS: Not only is there an investigation into what happened, but apparent attempts to cover it up are under scrutiny too.

The Marines originally reported the Iraqis had been killed in a bombing, but death certificates show many died from gunshot wounds to the head.

The Bush administration has promised to make public all the details of the investigations.

Last week the President said the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal had been America's biggest mistake in Iraq.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign after that.

With Haditha set to eclipse it, there's no indication yet if he'll offer to do the same again.

 

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