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thedrifter
04-07-06, 05:41 PM
April 07, 2006
Corps sacks three commanders
Battalion under investigation in deaths of 15 Iraqi civilians

By Gidget Fuentes and John Hoellwarth
Times staff writers

Three officers — including an infantry battalion commander and two of his company commanders — were fired April 7 for “lack of confidence,” a Corps spokesman said. Relieved were Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, who commanded the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines; India Company commander Capt. James Kimber; and Kilo Company commander Capt. Luke McConnell, said 2nd Lt. Lawton King, a spokesman for 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.

Officials previously have confirmed that Chessani’s battalion was under investigation for an alleged Nov. 19 rampage by the battalion’s Kilo Company Marines in the Iraqi city of Haditha that left 15 civilians dead, including seven women and three children.

The civilian deaths occurred after a roadside bomb killed one of 3/1’s Marines during a combat patrol.

The decision to relieve the three officers was made by Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, 1st Marine Division commander, “due to lack of confidence in their leadership abilities stemming from their performance during a recent deployment to Iraq,” King said.

Lawton did not explicitly connect the Haditha investigation to the firings but said the “decision was motivated by multiple incidents that occurred throughout the entire deployment.”

He referred questions pertaining to any other investigations of incidents to the military’s press center in Iraq, which couldn’t be reached before press time.


The firings came one week after the battalion returned home from Iraq and after the typical four-day liberty pass upon a deployment’s end.

Lt. Col. Phillip Chandler has taken command of the battalion, King said.

The Marine Corps won’t provide additional details on why the officers were relieved or whether anyone else has been implicated in the investigation.

“At this point, no charges have been preferred,” King said. “The investigation is still ongoing, so anything that pertains to this investigation we can’t talk about.”

A March 19 Time magazine article cited claims by local Iraqis that members of Kilo Company, 3/1, rampaged through the village killing civilians as they looked for insurgents responsible for the blast that killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Texas, who was a member of Kilo, 3/1.

According to the Time article, Marines claimed they began receiving fire from a residential building after the roadside bomb exploded, which prompted them to assault a home where 9-year-old Eman Waleed lived with her parents, grandparents, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles.

The article describes Waleed’s account of the Marines entering her house and executing all the adults inside.

“The Marines also reported seeing a man and a woman run out of the house; they gave chase and shot the man,” the article reads. “Relatives say the woman, Hiba Abdullah, escaped with her baby.”

The day after the incident, a videotape made by a Haditha journalism student surfaced.

Time magazine acquired the tape through the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, which cooperates with Human Rights Watch. The magazine reported that the tape shows victims still in their pajamas and bullet-pocked walls spattered with blood.

The video, repeatedly aired by Arab televisions the day it surfaced, also showed bodies of women and children in plastic bags on the floor of what appeared to be a morgue. Men were seen standing in the middle of the bodies, some of which were covered with blankets before being placed in a pickup truck, according to the report.

Talal al-Zuhairi, who heads the Baghdad Center for Human Rights, said his organization feared that even if the military’s investigation implicated the Marines, they would not be punished severely enough, according to a March 22 report by the Associated Press.

According to the report, “this incident shows that the forces are committing, every now and then, operations that harm civilians,” al-Zuhairi said.

“What we are worried about today ... [is that] a U.S. soldier may be discharged from the military or jailed for two years,” al-Zuhairi said in the report. “This would in no way be sufficient punishment for wiping out a whole family or killing of a large number of people through an unjustifiable act.”

The magazine spent 10 weeks interviewing local residents affected by the incident and, in January, shared these accounts with military officials in Baghdad, accounts that directly conflicted with the Corps’ initial stance that the civilian casualties were the result of the insurgent attack.

Officials with Multi-National Corps-Iraq launched an investigation Feb. 14 after Time brought the allegations to their attention. Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of MNC-I, directed further review March 9 after he was presented with initial findings of the investigation.

Chiarelli then handed the findings to Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, the new military commander for western Iraq.

Lt. Col. Bryan Salas, in a March 23 e-mail response to questions, said Zilmer directed the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to look into the allegations.

The Nov. 19 incident came one year after another high-profile incident that enflamed tensions between U.S. forces and Iraqis.

On Nov. 13, 2004, a corporal with 3/1 was videotaped shooting what appeared to be a wounded insurgent inside a mosque in Fallujah, Iraq, during the major U.S. operation to retake the city from insurgents.

Like the Haditha incident, the Fallujah shooting sparked outcries from human-rights groups regarding actions by U.S. forces against Iraqis.

Agents with NCIS investigated the matter, and the following May, Natonski ruled that the Marine would not face court-martial.

The Marine was never identified.

Ellie

thedrifter
04-08-06, 07:04 AM
Three Marine Commanders Relieved of Duties
The move comes as their battalion is investigated in the November deaths of Iraqi civilians.
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
April 8, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON — A top Marine general fired a battalion commander and two company commanders Friday amid an investigation into whether Marines from the battalion wantonly killed Iraqi civilians in a November firefight.

Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, relieved Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and two of his company commanders, Capt. James Kimber and Capt. Luke McConnell, of their duties. The three have been reassigned.

Marine Corps spokesman 2nd Lt. Lawton King said Natonski relieved the three of command because he lacked confidence in their leadership, based on their recent deployment to Iraq and a series of actions by the battalion.

It was unclear what the three officers did to lose Natonski's confidence. Under military rules, a commander can be relieved for the actions of his subordinates even if he knew nothing of those actions.

Military officials are investigating allegations by Iraqi civilians that Marines burst into several homes in Haditha, near Baghdad, on Nov. 19 and began firing indiscriminately.

Moments earlier, a Marine had been killed in a roadside bombing. When the incident first became public, the Marine Corps said the Iraqis had been killed in the explosion.

But video footage taken by the Iraqis showing the bloody bodies with gunshot wounds threw that assertion into dispute. Officials later said they had been killed in crossfire.

Fifteen Iraqi civilians were killed, including seven women and three children. Eight insurgents also were killed.

The Marine killed by the bomb was identified as Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas of El Paso, a member of Kilo Company of the 3rd Battalion.

Investigators are attempting to determine whether other Marines, angered at Terrazas' death, went on a rampage, ignoring rules meant to minimize civilian casualties. McConnell was the commanding officer of Kilo Company.

The tape of the bodies has been shown on Iraqi television, and the Baghdad Center for Human Rights has called for an investigation.

Troops could face courts-martial for violation of Geneva Convention protections for noncombatants if the inquiry determines that action is warranted.

Haditha is considered a stronghold of insurgent support. Militant leaders are thought to have fled there after the U.S. assault on Fallouja in November 2004.

About 25,000 Marines from Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms recently returned to Iraq to assume responsibility for much of the so-called Sunni Triangle, an area north and west of the capital that includes Fallouja. For many of the Marines, it is their third deployment to Iraq.

Natonski relieved the three officers of command on the same day he attended a memorial service at this sprawling base for nine Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, killed in November along the Syrian border.

Ellie

thedrifter
04-09-06, 08:38 AM
Iraq update
Marines sack commanders of unit linked to rampage
But announcement doesn’t tie officers to deaths at Haditha
By NANCY A. YOUSSEF
Knight Ridder Newspapers

HADITHA, Iraq — The Marines have relieved of duty three leaders of a unit that had responsibility for the city of Haditha, where 23 Iraqis were killed on Nov. 19.

They are Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and two of his company commanders, Capt. James S. Kimber and Capt. Lucas M. McConnell.

McConnell was commanding Kilo Company of the 3rd Battalion, the unit that struck a roadside bomb and led a subsequent search of the area.

The Marines’ announcement didn’t tie the disciplinary actions directly to Haditha, saying only that Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, had lost confidence in the officers’ ability to command.

The Navy Criminal Investigative Service began an investigation in February after a Time magazine reporter passed on accounts he had received about the incident. A second investigation was opened into how the Marines initially reported the killings. The Marines said that 15 persons had been killed by the roadside explosion and that eight insurgents were killed in subsequent combat.

The three were relieved because of “multiple incidents that occurred throughout their deployment,” said Lt. Lawton King, a spokesman at the Marines’ home base at Camp Pendleton, Calif. “This decision was made independent of the NCIS investigation.”

On Nov. 19, a roadside bomb struck a Humvee on Haditha’s main road, killing one Marine and injuring two. The Marines say they took heavy gunfire afterward and thought it was coming from an area around a house. They went to investigate.

The only survivor in the house where eight were killed, a 13-year-old girl, said her family wasn’t shooting at the Marines or harboring extremists that morning. They were sleeping when the bomb exploded. And when the Marines entered their house, she said, they shot at everyone inside.

According to the death certificates, her father died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest. His wife, who was lying in bed, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head. The daughters were all shot in the chest. The father had no weapon, military officials confirmed.

Haditha, a town of about 100,000 people in Anbar province, is an insurgent bastion. Around the time of the attack, several storefronts were lined with posters and pictures supporting al-Qaida, although residents said they posted them to appease extremists.

Insurgents blend in with the residents, setting up their cells in homes next to those belonging to the town’s residents, some of them supportive.

Haditha has been the site of some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. forces. On Aug. 1, six Marine reservists were killed in an ambush. Two days later, a roadside bomb killed 14 Marines traveling in an amphibious assault vehicle just outside the town, the deadliest single attack ever on U.S. forces.

On Nov. 19, according to military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Martin-Hing, the Marines were hit four separate times by roadside bombs and were fired on multiple times by gunmen they couldn’t see.

There is as yet no official public version of what took place next.

thedrifter
04-11-06, 11:51 AM
April 17, 2006
Corps sacks 3 commanders
Battalion under investigation in deaths of 15 Iraqi civilians

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writers

Three officers — including an infantry battalion commander and two of his company commanders — were fired April 7 for “lack of confidence,” a Corps spokesman said.

Relieved were Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, who commanded the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines; India Company commander Capt. James Kimber; and Kilo Company commander Capt. Luke McConnell, said 2nd Lt. Lawton King, a spokesman for 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.


Officials previously have confirmed that Chessani’s battalion was under investigation for an alleged Nov. 19 rampage by the battalion’s Kilo Company Marines in the Iraqi city of Haditha that left 15 civilians dead, including seven women and three children.

The civilian deaths occurred after a roadside bomb killed one of 3/1’s Marines during a combat patrol.

The decision to relieve the three officers was made by Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, 1st Marine Division commander, “due to lack of confidence in their leadership abilities stemming from their performance during a recent deployment to Iraq,” King said.

Lawton did not explicitly connect the Haditha investigation to the firings but said the “decision was motivated by multiple incidents that occurred throughout the entire deployment.”

He referred questions pertaining to any other investigations of incidents to the military’s press center in Iraq, which couldn’t be reached before press time.

The firings came one week after the battalion returned home from Iraq and after the typical four-day liberty pass upon a deployment’s end.

Lt. Col. Phillip Chandler has taken command of the battalion, King said.

The Marine Corps won’t provide additional details on why the officers were relieved or whether anyone else has been implicated in the investigation.

“At this point, no charges have been preferred,” King said. “The investigation is still ongoing, so anything that pertains to this investigation we can’t talk about.”

A March 19 Time magazine article cited claims by local Iraqis that members of Kilo Company, 3/1, rampaged through the village killing civilians as they looked for insurgents responsible for the blast that killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Texas, who was a member of Kilo, 3/1.

According to the Time article, Marines claimed they began receiving fire from a residential building after the roadside bomb exploded, which prompted them to assault a home where 9-year-old Eman Waleed lived with her parents, grandparents, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles.

The article describes Waleed’s account of the Marines entering her house and executing all the adults inside.

“The Marines also reported seeing a man and a woman run out of the house; they gave chase and shot the man,” the article reads. “Relatives say the woman, Hiba Abdullah, escaped with her baby.”

The day after the incident, a videotape made by a Haditha journalism student surfaced.

Time magazine acquired the tape through the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, which cooperates with Human Rights Watch. The magazine reported that the tape shows victims still in their pajamas and bullet-pocked walls spattered with blood.

The video, repeatedly aired by Arab televisions the day it surfaced, also showed bodies of women and children in plastic bags on the floor of what appeared to be a morgue. Men were seen standing in the middle of the bodies, some of which were covered with blankets before being placed in a pickup truck, according to the report.

Talal al-Zuhairi, who heads the Baghdad Center for Human Rights, said his organization feared that even if the military’s investigation implicated the Marines, they would not be punished severely enough, according to a March 22 report by the Associated Press.

According to the report, “this incident shows that the forces are committing, every now and then, operations that harm civilians,” al-Zuhairi said.

“What we are worried about today ... [is that] a U.S. soldier may be discharged from the military or jailed for two years,” al-Zuhairi said in the report. “This would in no way be sufficient punishment for wiping out a whole family or killing of a large number of people through an unjustifiable act.”

The magazine spent 10 weeks interviewing local residents affected by the incident and, in January, shared these accounts with military officials in Baghdad, accounts that directly conflicted with the Corps’ initial stance that the civilian casualties were the result of the insurgent attack.

Officials with Multi-National Corps-Iraq launched an investigation Feb. 14 after Time brought the allegations to their attention. Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of MNC-I, directed further review March 9 after he was presented with initial findings of the investigation.

Chiarelli then handed the findings to Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, the new military commander for western Iraq.

Lt. Col. Bryan Salas, in a March 23 e-mail response to questions, said Zilmer directed the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to look into the allegations.

The Nov. 19 incident came one year after another high-profile incident that enflamed tensions between U.S. forces and Iraqis.

On Nov. 13, 2004, a corporal with 3/1 was videotaped shooting what appeared to be a wounded insurgent inside a mosque in Fallujah, Iraq, during the major U.S. operation to retake the city from insurgents.

Like the Haditha incident, the Fallujah shooting sparked outcries from human-rights groups regarding actions by U.S. forces against Iraqis.

Agents with NCIS investigated the matter, and the following May, Natonski ruled that the Marine would not face court-martial.

The Marine was never identified.

Ellie