A respected Congressman with strong ties to the Pentagon has said that US Marines behaved much worse than previously thought in the Haditha incident in western Iraq last November, in which at least 15 civilians were killed.
Last night, Defence Department officials declined to comment, saying that a criminal investigation was still in progress. But they did not deny claims by John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and former Marine who saw combat in Vietnam, that Marines killed women and children "in cold blood".
The Navy is probing allegations of war crimes against about a dozen Marines from the 1st Marine Division at Haditha.
The Marines' account was that a firefight took place after one soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device, which also blew up a bus in which the 15 civilians were travelling. But a videotape of the aftermath, taken by an Iraqi and obtained by Time magazine, showed a different scene: a blood-smeared bedroom floor, bits of what appear to be human flesh, and bullet holes on the walls.
Mr Murtha said: "Our troops over-reacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."Reuse content