Officers Likely to Be Charged in Haditha Killings


June 2, 2006 — -- Military sources told ABC News that there are likely to be charges filed against officers up the chain of command in connection with the killing of 24 civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, in November 2005.

Those who could be charged include senior officers who were not on the scene at the time of the killing but should have known something wrong had happened and done something about it.

On Thursday, the White House confirmed that it was nearly three months after the Haditha killings that an investigation began, only after Time Magazine showed a video to a military spokesman.

Until then, the military insisted the civilians in Haditha had been killed by a roadside bomb.

But the video showed a bloody scene that suggested otherwise and prompted officials to launch a preliminary investigation into what happened.

The investigation quickly uncovered evidence the civilians were killed by the Marines, not a roadside bomb. From that point interest in the case quickly reached the highest levels.

"This is just a reminder for troops either in Iraq or throughout our military that there are high standards expected of them and there are strong rules of engagement," Bush said. "The Haditha incident is under investigation. Obviously, the allegations are very troubling for me and equally troubling for our military."

Bush was first told about what happened on March 11, one week before Time Magazine first reported the story. Since then, the president has received regular updates on the investigation from the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Sources familiar with the investigations told ABC News that the initial report claiming the civilians were killed by a bomb was filed by Sgt. Frank Wuterich. Wuterich was the top ranking Marine on the team that went into the houses where the civilians were killed. The question now, though, is where were his superiors?

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