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Marines Launch New Inquiry into Civilian Deaths

The Marine Corps announces a second investigation into the deaths of unarmed civilians in Iraq. The first incident -- which left 24 Iraqis dead in the town of Haditha -- happened in November. The second occurred in April, in a town west of Baghdad.

Investigators say that seven Marines and a Navy medical corpsman went on a patrol on April 26, looking for a suspected insurgent. Not finding him at his home, they instead went to a nearby house. They burst in and took away an Iraqi male. They questioned him, and investigators say they shot and killed him. The Marines and the corpsman then allegedly doctored the scene to make look like the man was an insurgent.

They left a shovel and an AK-47. And the story they told was that this individual had been spotted days before with a shovel -- and he looked like he was planting roadside bombs. The investigation began when the man's family approached the military and told them what happened. An investigation ensued, and some of the Marines have reportedly confessed.

In the other incident, 24 Iraqis, including 11 women and children, were killed last November in Haditha. At least five Marines could be implicated in that incident; investigators are expected to file their report next month. All of the Marines and the Navy corpsman have been sent back to their base at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Pentagon officials expect charges in the coming weeks.

The Marine Corps' top general, Michael Hagee, has flown to Iraq, where he told his troops Thursday that they should kill "only when justified."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.