Haditha Killings: Video and Survivor Interviews
Lucian Reed, World Picture News Network
Here is a video of a young girl whose father and grandparents were killed Nov. 19 in Haditha by U.S. Marines who burst through their door. She not only details what happened, but shows her own shrapnel wounds from the incident.
In all, 24 civilians were killed by members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regimen, (Kilo Company) which was brought in due to their "success" during the 2004 Fallujah raid. The Independent, Human Rights Watch and others have compared the killings to the 1968 My Lai Massacre.
The Senate Armed Forces Committee will investigate the killings.
The New York Times has interviews with additional survivors. As to who was responsible, the Times reports:
According to one United States defense official, who declined to be identified because details of the investigation are not supposed to be revealed, most of the subsequent killings are believed to have been committed by a handful of marines led by a staff sergeant who was their squad leader, although other marines are also under investigation.
The killings were execution-style:
One Haditha victim was an elderly man, close to 80 years old, killed in his wheelchair as he appeared to be holding a Koran, according to the United States defense official, who described information collected during the investigation. An elderly woman was also killed, as were a mother and a child who were "in what appeared to be a prayer position," the official said.
The Times interviewed 13 year old Safa Younis Salim:
There was one survivor, Safa Younis Salim, 13, who in an interview said she lived by faking her death. "I pretended that I was dead when my brother's body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet," she said. She said she saw American troops kick her family members and that one American shouted in the face of one relative before he was killed.
Some victims had single gunshot wounds to the head, and at least one home where people were shot to death had no bullet marks on the walls, inconsistent with a clearing operation that would typically leave bullet holes, the official added.
Almost as damaging as the alleged massacre may be evidence that the unit's members and their superiors conspired to cover it up. "There's no doubt that the Marines allegedly involved in doing this--they lied about it," says Kline. "They certainly tried to cover it up." Three Marine officers, including the company commander and battalion commander, have been relieved of duty in part for actions related to the deaths in Haditha. A lawmaker who has been briefed on the matter says the investigations may implicate other senior officers.
Update: One of the Marines in the eye of the Haditha storm is Jeffrey R. Chessani, 42, of Colorado. On April 7, he was put on desk duty at Camp Pendleton.
Chessani and the two captains, Luke McConnell and James Kimber, are free to come and go from Camp Pendleton during the investigation, said Lt. Col. Sean Gibson, a spokesman for the Marines assigned to Central Command. The Tampa, Fla.- based command oversees joint operations in southwest Asia. "No charges have been preferred against anyone," Gibson said. "They are not in the judicial system yet."
Reportedly, Capt. Luke McConnell, Kilo Company commander and Kilo batallion commander were not on the scene at the time of the killings. India Company's Capt. James Kimber, also relieved of his duties, was involved in an unrelated incident.
ABC News reports:
ABC News has learned from sources close to the investigation that the ranking Marine in the group who entered the homes and is a focus of the investigation is 25-year-old Sgt. Frank Wuterich.
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