Thu, Jun 01, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Probe contradicts US troops over deaths in Haditha

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND BASRA, IRAQ

A US military investigation found evidence showing all the civilians killed in the Iraqi town of Haditha in November had gunshot wounds, contradicting Marines' claims they were victims of a roadside bomb, the New York Times reported yesterday.

US military officials now say the killings of up to 24 civilians, including women and children, appear to have been an unprovoked attack by Marines, the newspaper said.

The report, citing an unidentified senior military official in Iraq, said the investigation in February and March led by Colonel Gregory Watt, an Army officer in Baghdad, uncovered death certificates showing the Iraqis were shot mostly in the head and chest.

The three-week probe was the first official investigation into the killings, which Marines initially attributed to a roadside bomb.

"There were enough inconsistencies that things didn't add up," the senior official was quoted as saying by the Times.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had been briefed on the conclusion of Watt's preliminary investigation, the newspaper said. The findings have not been made public.

Watt's investigation also reviewed cash payments of US$38,000 made within weeks of the shootings to families of victims, the New York Times said.

In an interview with the newspaper on Tuesday, Major Dana Hyatt said his superiors told him to compensate the relatives of 15 victims, but that the rest of those killed had been determined to have committed hostile acts, leaving their families ineligible for compensation. The US military sometimes pays compensation to relatives of civilian victims.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, four people were killed when insurgents assaulted a police station, a sports commentator was shot dead near his home and around 40 bodies were recovered in and around the capital.

Over the last two days alone more than 100 people have been killed in a wave of bombings and shootings in Iraq. The US has reported gains in developing local forces, but also a rise in attacks, higher casualties and greater sectarian violence.

In Baghdad, explosions resounded across the city as insurgents assaulted a police station in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah, where just two days earlier dozens of people were killed in car bombings.

In other violence, a sports correspondent for state-owned television station Iraqiya was shot dead as he left his home in the capital, just days after two British journalists were killed in a Baghdad bombing.

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