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Iraq Transition

Official: Probe faults Haditha response

Report finds Marines should have investigated more, source says


Unrest, Conflicts and War

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. general leading an investigation into civilian deaths in Haditha, Iraq, has concluded that senior leaders of the Marines failed to sufficiently investigate when faced with conflicting information, a defense official told CNN on Sunday.

The defense official, who has direct knowledge of more than a dozen findings and recommendations made as a result of the probe, said the report questions why no investigation was carried out after $38,000 in compensation was paid to Iraqi family members who said their relatives had been murdered.

The findings and recommendations about what happened in Haditha on November 19, 2005, come as part of a voluminous report prepared by Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell and reviewed by Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq.

U.S. Marines are alleged to have killed 24 Iraqi civilians in a bloody rampage after one of their own was killed by a roadside bomb in the town of Haditha in northern Iraq.

Chiarelli forwarded copies of the report with its conclusions and recommendations to Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Chiarelli also added his own recommendations.

The case has taken on extraordinary sensitivity at the highest levels of the Pentagon, and almost no information from the report has officially been made public.

The Defense Department official sharing details of the report declined to be identified because the report was still being reviewed, but he shared excerpts because, he said, it was important to show that the U.S. military was taking the matter seriously.

Source: Probe alleges shoddy investigation

At the heart of the initial investigation forwarded by Chiarelli is a finding that officers throughout the 2nd Marine Division failed to adequately investigate the incident at Haditha, the defense source said.

Bargewell found that reporting of the incident was untimely, inaccurate and incomplete, the source said. In turn, he said, Chiarelli expressed his own frustration to Casey and questioned the motivation of senior Marine leadership in failing to investigate the incident properly.

The Defense Department source said that, based on the findings, senior leaders might have been negligent and could be held accountable.

Chiarelli and Bargewell agreed there should be further review and possible investigation of the actions of the chain of command, the source said.

The source told CNN that any further investigation could lead to a range of actions, from administrative reprimand to criminal charges.

According to the defense source, Bargewell also recommends improvements in pre-deployment and counter-insurgency training.

In recent months, the Army and Marines have changed how forces are trained before being deployed, with more focus on psychological operations, civil affairs and cultural awareness. Bargewell said more needs to be done, the source said.

Multiple criminal probes

A criminal inquiry into the events in Haditha is being conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which is focusing on the alleged actions of the Marines that day.

And that investigation is only one of several into allegations of civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The U.S. military said Sunday that four U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been charged with participation in the "rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and three members of her family." (Full story)

Four soldiers were charged with murder in the deaths of three Iraqi detainees during an operation in Salaheddin province in May. (Full story)

Seven Marines and a sailor have been charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdaniya in April. (Full story)

Last week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for a review of coalition forces' immunity from Iraqi prosecution, saying such an exemption emboldens those troops.

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