‘As Bad As Haditha’

May 9, 2007 9:18am

The U.S. military took the extraordinary step of apologizing for the deadly shooting in Afghanistan earlier this year by Marines that left 19 civilians dead and another 50 wounded.  One senior official who has seen the results of the preliminary investigation into the incident says it was "as bad as Haditha," a reference to the 2005 shooting deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians that resulted in three Marines being charged with murder. Like Haditha, the incident was triggered by an explosion targeting a Marine convoy.  Witnesses allege the Marines then fired upon civilians gathered at a roadside bazaar and continued to fire on vehicles on the road for an additional 10 miles.  According to the senior official, "The Marines were out of control."  The investigation into the shootings continues. A dozen investigators from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are in Afghanistan interviewing more than 100 witnesses as they try to determine the day’s events.  Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. The investigators have not been given access to the victims’ bodies but are working on obtaining permission for autopsies to be performed. Seven Marines involved in the incident have been returned to their home base at Camp Lejeune as the investigation proceeds.    Col. John Nicholson told Pentagon reporters Tuesday that he had apologized for the shootings for what he termed "a terrible, terrible mistake" that "is a stain on our honor and on the memory of the many Americans who have died defending Afghanistan and the Afghan people." Nicholson also announced that victims families had been given solace payments, as much as $2,000 for the families of those killed in the incident. The military still doesn’t have a good handle on how many of the civilians were killed by the initial blast and the subsequent Marine fire. Either way, a military official says the decision was made not to differentiate and provide the payments to all the victims’ families.

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