Charges in Haditha Case Delayed

Military prosecutors are close to charging some of the Marines involved in the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha. But ABC News has learned it will be at least next week before those charges are filed.

This is the first time the Marine Corps has said it will file charges in the November 2005 deaths. Women and children were among those killed.

On Capitol Hill today, members of the House Armed Services Committee were briefed behind closed doors about the criminal investigation. But a similar meeting in the Senate was cancelled as members there raced to confirm Dr. Robert Gates as the new Defense Secretary.

Marines have been accused of killing unarmed Iraqis in Haditha in November 2005. It is one of several cases in which U.S. troops have been suspected, and some convicted, of being involved in the murder of Iraqi civilians.

Attorneys for the Marines under investigation say the men were following the rules of engagement during the incident. It all started with a roadside bomb that killed a popular Marine.

The Marines say they were coming under small arms fire when they started clearing nearby buildings. The initial report said 15 Iraqi citizens had been killed in the crossfire between the Marines and insurgents.

It wasn't until Time magazine reported that several facts did not match the Marines' reporting that the Corps launched an investigation.

The House Services Committee was also briefed today on a parallel investigation. This effort looked at whether the Marine chain of command tried to cover up the details of the killing. That report has been complete for months but has not been released to the public.