SAN DIEGO – A Marine corporal who was videotaped shooting an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque last year will not face court-martial, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.
A review of the evidence showed the Marine's actions in the shooting were "consistent with the established rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict," Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski (search), commanding general of the 1st Marine Division (search), said in a statement.
The corporal was not identified in the two-page statement issued by Camp Pendleton, where the division is headquartered, north of San Diego.
"Based on all the evidence in the case, and the rules of engagement that were in effect at the time, it is clear the corporal could have reasonably believed that the AIF [anti-Iraq forces] shown in the videotape posed a hostile threat justifying his use of deadly force," the statement said.
In his sworn statements, the corporal said he shot three "anti-Iraq forces" in self-defense in that building on Nov. 13, 2004, believing that they posed a threat to him and his fellow Marines, the statement said. Autopsy results showed that all three died of multiple wounds from gunshots fired from the corporal's M-16.
One of the shootings was recorded by Kevin Sites (search), an NBC cameraman embedded with the Marines, and the dramatic footage prompted outrage among Iraqis and an immediate investigation by the Marine Corps.
The investigation consisted of 22 interviews with Marines, autopsy reports, ballistic tests and the videotape of the shooting. The Marine was brought back from Iraq following the shooting. He remains at Camp Pendleton, said Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson, a Marine spokesman.
According to the Marine Corps, an enhanced videotape of the shooting supports the corporal's claim that the wounded Iraqi was concealing his left arm behind his head. Although the Marines said it was unclear from the videotape whether the Iraqi made any overtly threatening gestures, enemy forces commonly feigned death.
A fourth Iraqi also was shot and killed in the mosque complex, but the bullets could not be traced to the corporal's weapon, according to the statement. The investigation is ongoing into the death of the fourth insurgent, Johnson said.
In the Nov. 13 shooting videotaped by Sites, a Marine can be heard shouting obscenities in the background, yelling that one of the men was only pretending to be dead.
The video then showed a Marine raising his rifle toward a man lying on the floor of the mosque. The video provided to the network pool was blacked out at that point and did not show the bullet hitting the man. But a rifle shot could be heard.
The blacked out portion of the videotape, provided later to Associated Press Television News and other members of the network pool, showed the bullet striking the man in the upper body, possibly the head. His blood splattered on the wall behind him and his body went limp.
The incident occurred Nov. 13 in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. It played out as the division's 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, returned to the unidentified Fallujah mosque.
While Marines had secured the mosque complex on the previous day, intelligence reports indicated that the mosque had since been reoccupied by insurgents. The Marines had "contact" with insurgents as they approached and left the area, the Camp Pendleton statement said.