Sun, Jun 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

US military probe clears soldiers in Iraqi civilian deaths

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON

A US military probe has exonerated US troops in the deaths of Iraqi civilians in the town of Ishaqi in March, finding US forces followed standard procedures and committed no misconduct, defense officials said on Friday.

The Ishaqi incident was one of a handful involving civilian deaths being investigated by the US military, including the deaths of 24 civilians in the town of Haditha last November.

Police in Ishaqi, 100km north of Baghdad, have said six adults and five children were shot dead in a US military raid on a home on March 15.

The US military maintains four people died in the incident, including a guerrilla, two women and a child, and said they died after troops were fired upon from the house as they arrived to arrest an al-Qaeda suspect.

The defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an investigation found no wrongdoing by US forces.

The officials said a military fact-finding inquiry determined that US forces followed proper procedures and that the civilian deaths were unintentional.

A spokesman for the US-led multinational force in Iraq also said the incident was thoroughly investigated and that the soldiers correctly escalated force after receiving fire from a building in the city.

The raid's commander first called in helicopters, then an airstrike that destroyed part of the building.

"The investigation revealed that the ground force commander, while capturing and killing terrorists, operated in accordance with the rules of engagement governing our combat forces in Iraq," force spokesman Major General William Caldwell IV said in a statement.

In the Haditha case, which some commentators are comparing to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the military is investigating civilian deaths in the town west of Baghdad on Nov. 19.

The military is investigating whether US Marines went on a rampage after a comrade was killed by an insurgent roadside bomb and shot dead two dozen civilians, including women and children. US defense officials have said Marines could face charges including murder.

A military spokesman announced the investigation into the Ishaqi incident on March 21.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said he is losing patience with reports of US troops killing civilians. Many Iraqis believe unjustified killings by US troops are common, but few have been confirmed by official investigations.

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