Marine at Haditha: 'I Can Still Smell the Blood'

ByABC News
May 29, 2006, 6:19 PM

May 29, 2006 — -- As military officials investigate the Haditha killings in Iraq, one of the Marines involved has spoken out about what he saw last year.

Only hours after Iraqi civilians were killed, a second team of Marines was sent in to take the victims' bodies to a local morgue.

Lance Corp. Ryan Briones was among the Marines sent in to recover the bodies, and he told the Los Angeles Times he is still haunted by what he saw, including a young girl who was shot in the head.

"[The victims] ranged from little babies to adult males and females," Briones told the newspaper. "I can still smell the blood."

Briones says he and another Marine were told to photograph the bodies. Military officials say those photos -- which they say show people shot at close range in the head and chest -- clearly contradict initial reports that the civilians were killed by a roadside bomb.

Officials familiar with the investigation say Sgt. Frank Wuterich was the top-ranked Marine to enter the houses where the civilians were killed, and is a focus of the investigation.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said there are now two investigations into the killings that occurred last November.

"One is to find out what happened. The other is to find out, why did it take us so long to find out what happened?" said Gen. Peter Pace.

More than two months after the incident Time magazine asked the military to respond to allegations of the killings.

The magazine says a Marine spokesman responded with an e-mail stating, "I cannot believe you're buying any of this. This falls into the same category of Al-Qaeda in Iraq propaganda."

It was only after Time magazine showed a video in February to another military spokesman in Baghdad that an investigation was begun.

"Something broke down here in the sense that no investigation was conducted immediately," said Gen. Jack Keane. "Therefore, people most likely in the chain of command who had knowledge and should have taken action appropriately did not and they will be under investigation for the failure to do that."