Rep. Hunter calls for hearings about alleged "cold-blooded killings" of civilians by U.S. Marines

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

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Duncan Hunter, a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from California and the House Armed Services Committee chairman, said Thursday that the incident involving Marines firing on unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha on 19 November 2005 will be subject to Congressional hearings as soon the criminal investigation is completed.

"If there were problems in the chain of command, if there was a cover up, if there was anything that wasn't reported, let the chips fall where they may but don't presume anything," Mr. Hunter said.

The incident is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Multi-National Forces Iraq. No official investigation report has been released yet.

Some military commanders have said that it appears the Marines did not follow the rules of engagement. "This report is going to be ugly," one commander said.

John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and member of the House of Representatives, said earlier on Wednesday that what happened near the Iraqi town of Haditha was "much worse than was reported in Time magazine". On March 21, Time reported that "U.S. Marines killed 15 Iraqi civilians in their homes", including "seven women and three children". Time also reported that U.S. troops were responding to an IED and insurgent fire.

Murtha, referring to preliminary military investigation reports, said, "There was no firefight. [...] There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops over-reacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood." He also said that the civilian death toll was 24 and not 15 as reported by Time magazine.

According to the New York Times, Murtha stated that he himself did not read official findings of the military inquiry, but had been told about the inquiry by commanders due to his background of military service and connections to its workings.

Marine Corps Central Command spokesperson Lt. Col. Sean Gibson would neither confirm nor deny Murtha's charges.

Duncan Hunter said in response to Murtha on Friday "I don't want to see these troops who have done such a magnificent job end up being portrayed in the American media by what comes out of the Haditha investigation".

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