A US Marine shot and killed a wounded and apparently unarmed Iraqi prisoner in a mosque in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, according to dramatic pool television pictures broadcast Monday.
The US military said yesterday it was investigating claims that a Marine shot dead an unarmed wounded man as he lay in a mosque in Iraq's battle-zone city of Fallujah.
"The Marine has been withdrawn from the battlefield pending the results of the investigation," it said in a statement.
The First Marine Division said it wanted to determine whether the Marine acted in self-defense when killing the rebel on Saturday, violated military law or failed to comply with the international Law of Armed Conflict.
The shooting Saturday was videotaped by pool correspondent Kevin Sites of NBC television, who said three other prisoners in the mosque apparently also had been shot again by the Marines inside the mosque.
The incident played out as the Marines 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, returned to the unidentified Fallujah mosque Saturday. Sites was embedded with the unit.
Sites reported that a different Marine unit had come under fire from the mosque on Friday. Those Marines stormed the building, killing 10 men and wounding five, Sites said. The Marines said the fighters in the mosque had been armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 rifles.
The Marines had treated the wounded, he reported, left them behind and continued on Friday with their drive to retake the city from insurgents who have been battling US forces in Iraq.
The same five men were still in the mosque on Saturday, Sites reported.
On the video, as the camera moved into the mosque during the Saturday incident, a Marine can be heard shouting obscenities in the background, yelling that one of the men was only pretending to be dead.
The video then showed a Marine raising his rifle toward a prisoner lying on the floor of the mosque. The video shown by NBC and provided to the network pool was blacked out at that point and did not show the bullet hitting the man. But a rifle shot could be heard.
The blacked out portion of the video tape, provided later to Associated Press Television News and other members of the network pool, showed the bullet striking the man in the upper body, possibly the head. His blood splatters on the wall behind him and his body goes limp.
Sites reported a Marine in the same unit had been killed just a day earlier when he tended to the booby-trapped dead body of an insurgent.
A spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters in the Pentagon, Major Doug Powell, said the incident was "being investigated." He had no further details, other than to confirm the incident happened on Saturday and that the Marines involved were part of the 1st Marine Division.
"We follow the Law of Armed Conflict and hold ourselves to a high standard of accountability," the Marine commander in Fallujah, Lieutenant General John Sattler, said in a statement.
"The facts of this case will be thoroughly pursued to make an informed decision and to protect the rights of all persons involved," he said.
A decision would be made on what action to take depending upon the results of the investigation, the military added.
The events on the videotape began as some of the Marines from the unit accompanied by Sites approached the mosque on Saturday, a day after it was stormed by other Marines.