AT LEAST SIX CHILDREN EXECUTED IN RAMPAGE OF "REVENGE"
The UK Independent On Sunday is reporting that US Marines responsible for the execution-style murder of more than 20 Iraqi civilians, including men, women and at least six children, could face the death penalty for their crimes.
At least one marine took photographs of the scene of the slaughter on his mobile phone.
The photographs, seized by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), show many victims shot at close range in the head and chest, execution-style, according to sources who have seen them. One image shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer. Both have been shot dead.
Similar photographs taken by a Marines intelligence team which arrived on the scene later show that soldiers "suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership, with tragic results", according to a US official quoted by the Los Angeles Times yesterday.
The killing of more than 20 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha last November, first reported in the IoS two months ago, has become an international scandal after evidence from two official investigations was shown to Congressmen in the past 10 days.
Democrat John Murtha, a former Marines colonel who has retained close links to the military despite his denunciation of the Iraq occupation, said Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood".
According to reports in the US, military prosecutors may seek the death penalty for those found guilty of murder. Three Marines officers have already been relieved of duty, and more may be disciplined in a separate investigation into whether there was a cover-up after the killings.
The official account of what happened in Haditha on 19 November has gradually unravelled since the initial claim that one Marine, 20-year-old Lance-Corporal Miguel Terrazas, and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed when a roadside bomb went off next to a convoy of Humvees passing through the town.
Gunmen "attacked the convoy with small-arms fire", a statement added, and the Marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one.
It appears that the wounded man later died, bringing the number of Iraqis killed to 24. The Marines did not begin to change their story until an Iraqi human rights group obtained the journalism student's video, which showed that no Iraqis were killed in the bomb explosion. The houses where they died were bullet-riddled inside, but had no external marks, casting doubts on the soldiers' claims that there had been a firefight.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that victims of the massacre begged for their lives.
Witnesses...say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a lance corporal in a roadside bombing.
Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident....recalled hearing his neighbour across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for the lives of himself and his family. "I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: 'I am a friend. I am good,' " said Fahmi.
"But they killed him, and his wife and daughters."
The 24 Iraqi civilians killed on November 19 included children and the women who were trying to shield them, witnesses told a Washington Post correspondent in Haditha this week.
The girls killed inside Mr Khafif's house were aged 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1.WITNESSES DESCRIBE THE HADITHA CIVILIAN SLAYINGS
BABY, 3 YEAR OLD, 76 YEAR OLD EXECUTED - US MILITARY BRACES FOR MAJOR SCANDAL
REVEALED : HOW US MARINES MASSACRED 24 CIVILIANS