Charges Expected in Hamdania Killings
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. Alex Chadwick is on assignment. I'm Madeleine Brand.
Coming up, the U.S. military says that two members of the California National Guard were killed by Iraqi troops they were training.
First, though, criminal charges are expected today against U.S. troops for the killing in April of an Iraqi civilian. The shooting took place in a small town called Hamdania near Baghdad.
Investigators say seven Marines and a Navy medic killed the man after unsuccessfully tracking an insurgent. Then they allegedly doctored the scene to make it appear as if the man was placing a roadside bomb.
NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been following the story. And he joins us from the Pentagon. And Tom, what are the charges expected to be handed down today?
TOM BOWMAN, reporting:
Murder charges will be filed against all seven Marines and the Navy medic. And the other charges include conspiracy, making false official statements, assault, and larceny. And the squad leader, his name is Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins.
BRAND: Well, tell us about the details of this case, and how it came to light that it wasn't what it initially appeared to be.
BOWMAN: This occurred on April 26th. And Hamdania, again, is west of Baghdad. And this squad went out in the middle of the night looking for a suspected insurgent, went to his house, found he wasn't there. They believe he was tipped off.
Then they went around the neighborhood and apparently went into a random house and burst in. The family was there. And this 52-year-old man named Hashim Awad was taken away by Marines, according to investigators. And then he was questioned and shot.
Again, the allegations are that the Marines doctored the scene, leaving at AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel to make it look like he was an insurgent getting ready to plant bombs.
And that's the report they sent to their superiors, that they had found this suspected insurgent. And then his brother went to U.S. military officials and told them a different story. That's when the investigation began.
BRAND: And what kind of evidence do they have against these troops?
BOWMAN: Well, they have statements from both Marines and the brother. They have, they've recovered the AK-47 and the shovel. They also exhumed the body several weeks ago and sent it to the military's mortuary at Dover, Delaware and did extensive tests on the body.
They're still processing the evidence, but they believe that they might get some bullet fragments from the body that they could use as forensic evidence.
BRAND: This is one of three such incidents in Iraq.
BOWMAN: Right. There's Handania. There's a case involving soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division allegedly killed three Iraqis north of Baghdad in the city of Balad. And the other case took place northwest of Baghdad in the town of Haditha last fall where Marines allegedly killed 24 Iraqis.
Soldiers from the 101st have already been charged with murder in the Haditha case. That investigation is ongoing. And we expect the investigation to wrap up in the coming weeks.
BRAND: And is the military particularly worried about this case, this current case?
BOWMAN: Yes. They worry about all the cases. The commandant of the Marine Corps, General Mike Hagey, has been traveling around the world reminding Marines of their Corps values of honor and integrity and courage and also, you know, reminding them, of course, that they don't shoot unarmed civilians.
And also they've had renewed ethics trainings over in Iraq for the soldiers. So, they're taking this very seriously. And I'm told that this particular case with Hamdania is especially troubling to the Marines because just the cold-blooded nature of this is what they're worried about, that they apparently went into a random house and pulled this guy out. There was no evidence that he was even an insurgent or a suspected insurgent.
So, they're particularly troubled by this incident.
BRAND: Thank you, Tom.
BOWMAN: Thank you.
BRAND: Tom Bowman is an NPR Pentagon correspondent.
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