Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Marines face probe over prisoner deaths

FALLUJAH BATTLE A Marine unit reportedly executed eight unarmed Iraqi men they had captured during the fighting after receiving orders to move to a new location

AGENCIES , SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA AND BAGHDAD

Up to 10 US Marines are under investigation for the deaths of eight Iraqi prisoners during the November 2004 battle for Fallujah, marking the third war crimes probe of Marines at California's Camp Pendleton, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

Ed Buice, a spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said he could not disclose details of the inquiry. But he said none of the Marines under investigation are being held in detention.

Nat Helms, a Vietnam veteran who has written a book about the Marine Corp's battle for Fallujah in Iraq's Anbar Province, provided an account of the deaths on his Web site (defendourmarines.com) writing that eight Iraqi prisoners were executed.

According to Helms, Marines held eight unarmed Iraqi men in a house during the battle and executed them after receiving orders to move to a new location.

The allegation is another embarrassment for the US military fighting in Iraq and Camp Pendleton, one the Marine Corps' largest installations in the US.

In June last year, seven Marines and a US Navy corpsman were charged in the killing of a 52-year-old grandfather in Hamdania in April last year. According to testimony, the man was kidnapped from his bed and killed in a scenario planned to make his death look like he was planting a bomb.

All but three of the troops have pleaded guilty to reduced charges, while the remaining three Marines pleaded innocent to charges including kidnapping and murder and are awaiting court martial.

Last December, eight Marines from the same platoon being investigated in the Fallujah killings were charged in the November 2005 killings of 24 residents of Haditha.

Four officers face charges for failing to investigate and accurately report those killings and three Marines face murder charges. Charges against a fourth Marine were dropped in exchange for testimony.

The latest investigation began after a Marine admitted during a polygraph test for a job with the US Secret Service that he participated in a wrongful death, Helms said.

He said Corporal Ryan Weemer told him that after Marines captured the eight Iraqis, they received a radio order to move out. When asked what to do with the prisoners, a radio operator asked "Are they still alive?"

The Marines took that as an order to execute the Iraqis and shot them to death, Helms says.

Helms said insurgents in Fallujah would run from firefights without weapons and rearm themselves at new locations because they knew Marines were barred from shooting the unarmed.

EXECUTION IN IRAQ

In other developments, an alleged al-Qaeda militant was executed for his role in one of the first and bloodiest bombings in Iraq, an August 2003 blast that killed Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and 84 other people, a Iraqi Justice Ministry official said yesterday in Baghdad.

Oras Mohammed Abdul-Aziz was hung on Tuesday in Baghdad after being sentenced to death last October, a ministry official said.

The execution announcement was the first word that a suspect had been tried in the al-Hakim killing, which had been claimed by al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Hakim was the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and was poised to become a major political figure following the fall of former president Saddam Hussein.

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