SAN DIEGO – A Marine captain who was relieved of command after members of his battalion were accused of killing civilians in Haditha, Iraq, denied any role in the slayings and complained that he had become a "political casualty."
"It makes my blood boil to see my name lumped in with this massacre, when I was in a different city not playing any role in this incident," Capt. James Kimber told The Associated Press.
Kimber, 33, of Fountain Hills, Ariz., was one of three officers reassigned to new duties last month for what the Marines said was "a lack of confidence in their leadership abilities." None of the three officers has been charged with wrongdoing.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the 24 killings Nov. 19 were criminal, and whether the Marines involved and their commanding officers tried to hide the truth.
Kimber said he first learned about the shootings in February when he heard that a Time magazine reporter was asking questions about civilian deaths.
Kimber said he heard nothing about a civilian massacre during city council meetings and talks with local leaders.
"It would have been huge, there would have been no question it would have filtered down to us," he said. "We reported no significant atmospheric change as a result of that day."
Kimber said he was removed because senior commanders at California's Camp Pendleton were scrambling to defuse an explosive situation.
"I believe I was a political casualty as a result of the Haditha incident," Kimber said in a telephone interview.
A Camp Pendleton spokesman did not immediately return a message left seeking comment.