View Full Version : Activist blames Marines

06-09-06, 06:55 AM
Activist blames Marines
Detailed account says Iraqi civilians killed for revenge Nov. 19
By Hamza Hendawi
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - A small group of U.S. Marines accused of killing as many as two dozen Iraqi civilians conducted a house-to-house hunt that stretched over three hours, while other Marines in Haditha did not intervene, according to an Iraqi human-rights investigator.

The Associated Press interview of the activist is the most detailed account yet of Iraqi accusations that Marines went on a rampage after a comrade was killed by a bomb.

Two U.S. military investigations of the incident are under way.

Thaer al-Hadithi, a member and spokesman for the Hammurabi human-rights association, a Sunni Muslim group, recounted the incident.

With the help of a satellite map when and where Iraqi civilians cowered and sometimes died, he made his accusations.

The case came to public attention two months ago because of a video released by the Hammurabi group.

The military, after saying the Iraqi deaths were the result of a roadside bomb and a subsequent gunfight with insurgents, has not publicly released updated findings.

But newer accounts, including details from briefings to members of Congress, have indicated at least some of the 24 deaths were the result of deliberate gunfire by a small group of Marines seeking revenge for the bombing, and that their actions were covered up by other Marines who knew or suspected what had occurred.

Story parallels others

Al-Hadithi's account is mostly in line with other, eyewitness reports. He said he expanded his personal observations at the time with follow-up interviews of other witnesses who saw actions that he could not see from his house. He made repeated visits to the town to get information, he said.

Hammurabi chairman Abdul-Rahman al-Mashhadani said Tuesday that his group was investigating other violations of Iraqi civil rights by Western forces in the mainly Sunni Arab provinces of Anbar and Salaheddin to the west and north of Baghdad. He said the group also was looking into violations by Iraqi security forces, militias and tribal clans.

``We are also against terrorism,'' he said.

Al-Hadithi, 42, said he had been visiting his family in Haditha in western Iraq for a Muslim holiday when he was awakened on the morning of Nov. 19 by an explosion that he later learned was a roadside bomb that hit a U.S. convoy of four Humvees, killing one Marine.

A native of the town, al-Hadithi was an administrator in Haditha's main hospital before he took leave to work with Hammurabi, which was set up 16 months ago.

According to U.S. lawmakers briefed by Pentagon officials, the Marines, enraged by the death of a comrade, stormed nearby homes, killing occupants as well as the driver and four passengers of a taxi.

Al-Hadithi offered new details on how that might have happened. He said the bombing took place on a road about 100-150 yards from his family home.

The first gunshots were heard around 7:30 a.m., he said, when the Marines moved into the home of Abdul-Hamid Hassan Ali, a blind and elderly man in failing health. The house is just south of the spot where the bomb went off, al-Hadithi said.

Details of shootings

Later, the Marines moved next door to the house of Younis Salem Rsayef and his family.

``There was intense gunfire and I could see a fire at the Rsayef home,'' said al-Hadithi, who watched from a window at his family home.

One of the 24 bodies taken to Haditha's main hospital late on Nov. 19 was charred, according to Walid Abdul-Hameed al-Obeidi, the hospital director. That was believed to be one of Rsayef's sons, who witnesses said was burned to death after a grenade was thrown into his room.

Ali and his wife Khamisa Toamah Ali were killed, along with three of their sons, a daughter-in-law and a grandson, according to witnesses, hospital officials and human-rights workers. In the second home, eight people were killed: Rsayef, his wife, her sister and five children.

Al-Hadithi said the Marines stormed the house of Ayed Ahmed, the closest to al-Hadithi's own home, about 10:30 a.m. There, he said, four brothers, all of fighting age, were ordered inside a closet and shot dead. Everyone else was spared, al-Hadithi said.

At about the same time, a man who stepped out of his house to see what was happening at Ayed Ahmed's home was shot and wounded, al-Hadithi said. Aws Fahmi, 43, was left to bleed on the street for about two hours before a female neighbor dragged him to safety, al-Hadithi said. Although the shooting stopped, the security sweep lasted until about 4:30 p.m. and the Marines did not leave the town, he said.