"In response to claims as many as thirteen civilians were killed in a March 15th air strike in the vicinity of Ishaqi, south of Samarra, an investigation was launched into the incident the very next day," US Army spokesman General William Caldwell said Saturday, June 3, in a statement carried by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"The investigating officer ascertained that the ground force commander properly followed the rules of engagement as he necessarily escalated the use of force until the threat was eliminated."
The US statement said that the raid captured a Kuwaiti-born Al-Qaeda cell leader and killed an Iraqi involved in making improvised explosive devices as well as recruiting locals to join the insurgency.
"The investigating officer concluded that possibly up to nine collateral deaths resulted from this engagement but could not determine the precise number due to collapsed walls and heavy debris.
"Allegations that the troops executed a family living in this safe house, and then hid the alleged crimes by directing an air strike, are absolutely false."
US officials said at the time that four people died in the raid in the village of Ishaqi on March 15 after US forces were tipped off that a supporter of Al-Qaeda was visiting a house in Ishaqi.
The BBC showed video Friday of 11 bodies, including women and children.
The BBC, which reported it had received the video from a Sunni group, said the evidence appeared to contradict the US version of events.
A report filed by Iraqi police accused US troops of rounding up and deliberately shooting 11 people in the house, including five children and four women, before blowing up the building to cover up their grisly massacre.
The latest allegations of US military killings of Iraqi civilians came as the Pentagon is probing an alleged massacre by US Marines of unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.
Time magazine said Marines killed seven people in one house and then another 12 people in neighboring homes, as well as shooting dead the driver and four passengers of a passing taxi.
The New York Times revealed Saturday that US marine commanders in Iraq learned within two days of the killings in Haditha that Iraqi civilians had died from gunfire, not a roadside bomb as initially reported by the US military.
Citing an unnamed senior marine officer, the newspaper said the officers involved, however, saw no reason to investigate further.
The commanders have told investigators they had not viewed as unusual the discrepancies that emerged almost immediately in accounts about how the two dozen Iraqis died, and that they had no information at the time suggesting that any civilians had been killed deliberately, the report said.
|Iraqis Condemn Whitewash Probes About Haditha and Izhaqi Massacres. Above: Iraqi children massacred at Al-Is'haqi|
But the handling of the matter by the senior marine commanders in Haditha, and whether officers and enlisted personnel tried to cover up what happened or missed signs suggesting that the civilian killings were not accidental, has become a major element of the investigation by an Army general into the entire episode, the paper pointed out.
Officials have said that the investigation, while not yet complete, is likely to conclude that a small group of marines carried out the unprovoked killings of two dozen civilians in the hours after a makeshift bomb killed a marine, The Times said.
A senior marine general familiar with the investigation, which is being led by Major General Eldon Bargewell of the Army, said in an interview that it had not yet established how high up the chain of command culpability for the killings extended, according to the paper.
But he said there were strong suspicions that some officers knew that the marine squad's version of events had enough holes and discrepancies that it should have been looked into more deeply.
"It's impossible to believe they didn't know," The Times quoted the general as saying of mid-level and senior officers. "You'd have to know this thing stunk."Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16