U.S. general says probe of alleged killing in Iraq mosque continues

Officer denies report Marine won't be charged

February 25, 2005|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Marine's top general denied a broadcast report that a Marine who was caught on video allegedly shooting and killing an unarmed Iraqi insurgent last fall during fighting in a Fallujah mosque would not be charged because there is insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

The graphic video, taken by a cameraman who was embedded with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, was repeatedly shown on television and caused an international furor.

Gen. Michael Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, disputed a CBS News report Wednesday night that the Marine involved in the incident would not be charged, saying the investigation into the case had not been completed.

"I thought it would be done by now," Hagee told a group of reporters. "I'm hesitant to say when" it will be completed.

On the video, the Marine can be heard shouting obscenities, yelling that one of the men pretended to be dead.

The video, shown by NBC and provided to other networks, was then blacked out and did not show a bullet hitting the man. However, a rifle shot could be heard. "He's dead now," a Marine said.

The Marine, whose name has not been released, was removed from combat duty after the incident and is now back at Camp Pendleton, Calif., officials said.

In the weeks after the incident, there was an outpouring of public sympathy in the United States for the unidentified Marine, who was depicted as doing the best he could under hellish conditions.

Still, Hagee, a Vietnam War veteran, said that in combat situations, such as Fallujah, Marines must balance a need to be aggressive with "protecting those people who need to be protected."

Navy investigators have all but completed their probe of the incident. A senior government official familiar with the case said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is wrapping up its report, which is expected to be forwarded to Marine commanders within the next month.

The official, who requested anonymity, said the report would "give facts and [make] no recommendations."

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