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Photos Confirm Murder of Iraqi Children, Civilians

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    PHOTOS CONFIRM US RAID CHILD DEATHS http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/A7B418CB-37BD-4A69-B55C-CBDC7D932B38.htm Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2007

      Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage that confirms children were
      among the victims of a US air raid northwest of Baghdad. Local
      officials said that the bodies of 17 civilians, including six children
      and eight women, had been pulled from the debris of two houses in

      The US military had issued a statement on Friday saying that two women
      were among 20 suspected "al Qaeda terrorists" killed in the operation.

      Al Jazeera's footage showed the bodies of men, women and children
      wrapped in blankets after they had been pulled from the rubble.

      The Agence France Presse news agency said it passed its own
      photographs of the dead children to Lieutenant Colonel Christopher
      Garver, a US military spokesman, who said: "We've checked with the
      troops who conducted this operation - there were no children found
      among the terrorists killed.


      Eyewitness Accounts in Report Indicate Marines Gunned Down Unarmed
      Iraqis in the Aftermath of a Roadside Bombing in 2005
      By Josh White
      Washington Post Staff Writer

      01/06/07 "Washington Post" -- -- U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed
      Iraqis who stumbled onto the scene of a 2005 roadside bombing in
      Haditha, Iraq, according to eyewitness accounts that are part of a
      lengthy investigative report obtained by The Washington Post.

      Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the squad's leader, shot the men one by
      one after Marines ordered them out of a white taxi in the moments
      following the explosion, which killed one Marine and injured two
      others, witnesses told investigators. Another Marine fired rounds into
      their bodies as they lay on the ground.

      "The taxi's five occupants exited the vehicle and according to U.S.
      and Iraqi witnesses, were shot by Wuterich as they stood, unarmed,
      next to the vehicle approximately ten feet in front of him," said a
      report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on the incident
      that runs thousands of pages.

      One of the witnesses, Sgt. Asad Amer Mashoot, a 26-year-old Iraqi
      soldier who was in the Marine convoy, told investigators he watched in
      horror as the four students and the taxi driver fell. "They didn't
      even try to run away," he said. "We were afraid from Marines and we
      saw them behaving like crazy. They were yelling and screaming."

      The shootings were the first in a series of violent reactions by
      Marines on the morning of Nov. 19, 2005 that left 24 civilians -- many
      of them women and children -- dead, in what some human rights groups
      and Iraqis have called a massacre by U.S. troops.

      The report, which relied on hundreds of interviews with Marines, Iraqi
      soldiers and civilian survivors conducted months after the incident,
      presents a fragmented and sometimes conflicting chronicle of the
      violence that day. But taken together, the accounts provide evidence
      that as the Marines came under attack, they responded in ways that are
      difficult to reconcile with their rules of engagement.

      Four Marines were charged with murder last month in connection with
      the civilian deaths in Haditha: Wuterich, who faces 13 counts of
      unpremeditated murder; Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz; Lance Cpl. Justin L.
      Sharratt; and Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum. Each faces the possibility
      of life in prison if convicted.

      Through their lawyers, three have argued that they behaved
      appropriately while taking fire on a chaotic battlefield, and that the
      civilian deaths were a regrettable but unavoidable part of warfare in
      an especially dangerous area. Dela Cruz's attorney has declined to

      The Marine Corps also has charged four officers with failing to
      investigate and fully report the slayings: Lt. Col. Jeffrey R.
      Chessani, Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, Capt. Randy W. Stone and Lt.
      Andrew A. Grayson.

      The Marines told investigators that they believed they were authorized
      to fire freely inside two houses they raided in the minutes following
      the taxi shootings, after concluding that insurgents were firing on
      them. After an officer ordered them to "take" one of the homes and
      Wuterich commanded them to "shoot first, ask questions later," the
      Marines considered the houses "hostile," according to sworn statements
      to investigators.

      Marine officials have accused the troops of failing to identify their
      targets before using grenades and guns to kill 14 unarmed people in
      the houses, including several young children in their pajamas, in a
      span of about 10 minutes, according to the documents.

      Safah Yunis Salem, 13, who said she played dead to avoid being shot,
      was the only person to survive the Marine attack on the second house.
      Her sister Aisha, 3, was shot in the leg and died; her brother Zainab,
      5, was killed by a shot to the head. She said she lost five other
      members of her family in the room, including her mother.

      "He fired and killed everybody," Safah said. "The American fired and
      killed everybody."

      Numerous Marine officers in the chain of command in Iraq -- including
      a major general -- knew about the civilian deaths almost immediately
      but did not launch an investigation for months, according to interview
      transcripts. Some lower-level officers did not believe that the
      Marines had done anything inappropriate, while high-ranking officers
      had limited information about the incident and did not inquire further.

      A Routine Mission Turns Violent

      The report provides a detailed narrative of the events leading to the
      violence in Haditha. The day began about 6 a.m., when Lance Cpl.
      Salvador A. Guzman Jr. awoke at Firm Base Sparta and members of his
      squad learned they would be bringing fresh Iraqi troops to a traffic
      checkpoint in Haditha. He bumped into Lance Cpl. Miguel "T.J."
      Terrazas, who joked that "we were going to get hit by an improvised
      explosive device one day because we travel so much," Guzman told

      The Marines left the base at about 6:45 a.m. and made the personnel
      changes by about 7 a.m.; then they turned their four-vehicle convoy
      around and headed back. Sharratt, in the turret of the first Humvee,
      waved a white sedan over to the side of "Route Chestnut," and as it
      slid to the south shoulder a blast rocked the neighborhood.

      Terrazas, who was driving the fourth Humvee, was killed instantly by
      the remotely detonated propane tank, which shredded the front of the
      vehicle and launched it into the middle of the road. Another Marine,
      severely injured, was trapped in the wreckage.

      Marines who rushed to help told investigators they took enemy rifle
      fire from several locations on the north and south sides of the road.
      Navy Hospitalman Brian D. Whitt said he could see bullet impacts near
      his feet and noticed men with rifles disappearing from atop a house to
      the north. Some of the fire appeared to be coming from behind the
      white taxi.

      The Marines concurred that they were under fire from all sides,
      indicating that the incident was part of a complex insurgent attack
      that lasted much of the day.

      One Marine and two Iraqi soldiers told investigators that the men who
      had been in the taxi were standing in a line outside it, some with
      their hands in the air, when Wuterich began to fire on them.

      Wuterich said the men got out of the car, and he shot them because he
      considered them a threat. But Dela Cruz said the men were standing in
      a line when they started to fall.

      "As I crossed the median I saw one of the Iraqi civilians, who was
      standing in the center of the line, drop to the ground," Dela Cruz
      told investigators. "Immediately afterwards another Iraqi standing by
      him raised his hands to his head. I then heard other small arms fire
      and looked to my left and saw Sgt. Wuterich kneeling on one knee and
      shooting his M16 in the direction of the Iraqi civilians."

      Dela Cruz told investigators that he pumped bullets into the bodies of
      the Iraqi men after they were on the ground and later urinated on one
      of them.

      Minutes later, a Quick Reaction Force arrived from the Marine base,
      bringing Lt. William T. Kallop, the first officer on the scene. Kallop
      told investigators he began to receive enemy fire almost immediately.
      About that time, Cpl. Hector A. Salinas spotted a man firing at the
      squad from the corner of a house on the south side of the road.

      "Salinas then stated that he could see the enemy so Kallop told them
      to 'take the house,' " according to an NCIS summary of an interview
      with Kallop. The interview provides the first evidence that an officer
      ordered the attack.

      Richard McNeil, a lawyer who represents Kallop, declined to comment
      about him or his role, but he warned that "typically in an NCIS
      investigation, the narratives are always slanted to the interpretation
      of the government."

      Wuterich, Salinas, Tatum and Lance Cpl. Humberto M. Mendoza formed a
      team to attack the house, launching grenades first and then busting
      through the door.

      "I told them to treat it as a hostile environment," Wuterich told
      investigators. "I told them to shoot first, ask questions later."

      Defense attorneys have argued that the men were following their "rules
      of engagement" when they shot into the homes, using effective
      techniques in a difficult environment.

      The Marine division's rules-of-engagement card in effect at the time
      in western Iraq instructed Marines to "ALWAYS minimize collateral
      damage" and said that targets must be positively identified as threats
      before a Marine can open fire. It also told Marines that "nothing on
      this card prevents you from using all force necessary to defend yourself."

      After entering the first house through a kitchen, Tatum told
      investigators, he heard what he believed was an AK-47 rifle being
      "racked," or readied to fire, around a corner. He and Salinas tossed
      grenades into the room, according to the documents. Waleed Hasan, 37,
      was killed. Khamisa Ali, 66, was shot dead in the hallway before four
      others were killed in a bedroom by grenades and rifle fire.

      Nine-year-old Eman Hamed told investigators that a grenade landed near
      her grandfather's bed and exploded, sending shrapnel through the room.
      Her mother and 4-year-old brother were killed as she huddled, injured,
      with another brother, Abid, 6, who survived. "All rooms," Abid told
      investigators. "They were shooting in all rooms."

      Several Marines said they quickly cleared the home by fire, shooting
      through the dust, debris and darkness to eliminate what they believed
      was a threat.

      From there, Wuterich, Mendoza and Tatum said, they moved to a second
      house after suspecting that insurgents might have escaped. Mendoza
      told investigators that the Marines approached the second house the
      same way they did the first, treating it as hostile, according to his
      sworn statement. Mendoza said he shot a man, 43-year-old Yunis Rasif,
      through the house's glass kitchen door.

      "I fired because I had been told the house was hostile and I was
      following my training that all individuals in a hostile house are to
      be shot," Mendoza told investigators. The Marines then entered the
      house and tossed grenades before firing into a back bedroom, which
      they later found was filled with women and children.

      "Knowing what I know now, I feel badly about killing Iraqi civilians
      who may have been innocent, but I stand fast in my decisions that day,
      as I reacted to the threats that I perceived at the time," Tatum said.
      "I did not shoot randomly with the intent to harm innocent Iraqi

      Jack Zimmerman, Tatum's attorney, declined to comment yesterday but
      decried the publication of the documents. "The ethical rules that
      govern lawyers prohibit me from even discussing the matter," he said.

      Mashoot, the Iraqi soldier who was with the Marines, said he thought
      the attack on the houses was warranted because the entire convoy was
      taking fire. Investigators noted that he believed the Marines "had
      justification" because they were "defending themselves."

      Another group of Marines, including Dela Cruz, simultaneously went to
      the north side of the road and found a dwelling that they believed was
      the "trigger house" for the roadside bomb. They took several Iraqis
      into custody, according to the documents, but did not shoot anyone in
      a search of several houses. Another man was shot after Marines
      observed him running along a ridgeline.

      A few hours later, Sharratt, Wuterich and Salinas approached a third
      and fourth house after noticing men they said were peering at them

      The investigative reports show that what happened there is unclear.
      Iraqi witnesses said the Marines angrily separated men and women into
      two lines before marching the men into the fourth house and shooting
      them. The three Marines told investigators they were searching for the
      men they had seen and separated the women into a safe area before
      Wuterich and Sharratt entered the house.

      At First, No Inquiry

      The military did not launch an inquiry of the Haditha deaths until a
      Time magazine reporter began to inquire about the incident two months
      later. Marine officers told investigators the reason was simple:
      Nothing in the reports they received from the field caused them to
      believe that a probe was warranted.

      Investigators appear to have found little evidence that Marines on the
      ground or at headquarters tried to conceal the day's events. But Dela
      Cruz told investigators that Wuterich asked him to back up claims that
      the men in the taxi were trying to flee before they were shot.

      Puckett, Wuterich's lawyer, challenged Dela Cruz's assertion: "Staff
      Sergeant Wuterich adamantly denies asking anybody to lie or change
      their story."

      The documents show that Marines in Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st
      Marine Regiment, reported the incident to their base as it was
      happening and made clear that there were a significant number of
      civilian casualties. Though at first the Marines classified eight of
      the civilians as insurgents, they quickly reported that at least 15
      civilians had been killed in what they called "crossfire" with the enemy.

      The events came amid heavy insurgent attacks in Haditha that day that
      ultimately prompted Marines to call in airstrikes on suspected
      insurgent homes. The hectic nature of the day caused some early
      reports to be confused and inaccurate, Marines told investigators.

      The Kilo Company commander, McConnell, told his Marines on the day of
      the attacks that they had done a good job, according to an
      investigative summary in the NCIS report. Investigators wrote that
      McConnell did not want to question his Marines on a day they lost a
      comrade but that he informed his superiors about the civilian deaths.

      "There was never a hint whatsoever that these kids did anything
      improper. Not one," said Kevin McDermott, a lawyer who represents

      Marine officers said Chessani, the Marines' battalion commander,
      informed his superior, the regimental commander, of the civilian
      casualties the day they occurred and was told by that officer, Col.
      Stephen W. Davis, that no investigation was needed.

      "There was nothing out of the ordinary about any of this, including
      the number of civilian dead, that would have triggered anything in my
      mind that was out of the norm," Davis told military investigators,
      according to a transcript. "There is nothing about this incident that
      jumped out at any point to us."

      Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, the division commander, told investigators
      he learned about the civilian casualties on the day they occurred and
      believed that they were the result of a roadside bomb and the ensuing
      gunbattle between Marines and insurgents. Huck visited Haditha three
      days later and was briefed on the incident.

      "Nothing in the brief caused any concern to me," Huck told
      investigators. "I do not recall if the brief discussed the number of
      Iraqis killed that day, but I do recall the brief discussing Marines
      clearing houses following the IED attack."

      McConnell and Chessani have been charged in the case; Huck and Davis
      have not. Attempts to reach Chessani or an attorney for him were not

      In December 2005, the Marines authorized $38,000 in condolence
      payments to the families of the civilians killed in the first two
      houses, and Chessani, in early February, explained the payments in a
      memo. "The enemy chose the time and place of his ambush. Without
      callous disregard for the lives of innocent bystanders, the enemy
      would not have chosen to fight from the bedrooms and living rooms of
      civilian-occupied houses," he wrote.

      The official inquiry began two weeks later, after the Time reporter
      sent a list of questions about the incident to Marine officials in
      Iraq. In his e-mail, the reporter raised the possibility that Marines
      had massacred civilians and executed the men from the taxi, based in
      part on a videotape made by an activist a day after the incident.

      Huck told investigators he dismissed the allegations, believing they
      were part of an insurgent campaign to smear the Marines. Other Marine
      officers, such as Davis, also believed that the allegations were

      But Maj. Samuel H. Carrasco, then a battalion operations officer, said
      he and the battalion executive officer suggested an investigation to
      Chessani. Carrasco told investigators that "Lt. Col. Chessani then
      shouted, 'My men are not murderers.' "

      The first investigation, by Army Col. Gregory Watt, ordered by Lt.
      Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, then the top field commander in Iraq,
      essentially supported the Marines' accounts of events. Watt determined
      that the troops had reason to be suspicious of the men in the white
      car and concluded that while they did not positively identify targets
      in the houses, it might have been "unrealistic to expect" on the
      battlefield that day.

      He also found no indication that the Marines "intentionally targeted,
      engaged and killed noncombatants," but he suggested a criminal
      investigation nonetheless. The NCIS investigation began March 12,
      leading to last month's charges.

      Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.



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