LOS ANGELES – An investigation into the killing of 24 Iraqis by U.S. Marines concludes that senior military personnel in Iraq did not follow up on potential inaccuracies in early accounts of the deaths, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Military officials have said Marines killed the civilians in Haditha on Nov. 19 after a roadside bomb rocked a military convoy, killing one Marine. The Marine Corps initially attributed the civilian deaths to the bomb and crossfire during a battle between the Americans and insurgents.
A report by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell said problems with initial accounts submitted by Marines involved in the deaths should have been apparent to commanders in the area, the Times said.
Bargewell questioned why senior military officers in western Iraq did not conduct a thorough investigation, the newspaper said. It cited a portion of his report's executive summary that was read to the Times by a U.S. Defense Department official who requested anonymity because the report had not been released publicly.
"Virtually no inquiry at any level of command was conducted into the circumstances surrounding the deaths," Bargewell wrote, according to the Times. "There were, however, a number of red flags and opportunities to do so."
For example, the 2nd Marine Division comptroller, who was responsible for making compensatory payments to the families of the dead civilians, told the division's legal counsel that he thought the incident "might require further reporting."
The advocate's office didn't act on the comptroller's request, according to the Times.
The Marines have begun to overhaul how it investigates civilian deaths and to discipline officers who supervised the squad involved in the Haditha killings.