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Haditha Probe Reveals 'Red Flags'

An investigation into the cover-up of the alleged murder of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha last November concludes Marine officers at every level up to and including the colonel who commanded the regiment failed to investigate inaccurate and conflicting reports of how the civilians were killed, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.

The initial report filed by the sergeant who commanded the squad of Marines charged with the shooting, claimed 15 civilians were killed when a roadside bomb struck his convoy.

Yet a Marine intelligence team took pictures of the bodies that show all the civilians were killed by gunshots, not by shrapnel from the bomb.

Marines also transported the bodies to a local morgue, where death certificates listed the cause of death as gunshot wounds. Another Marine officer distributed $38,000 in compensation payments to the victim's families – clear evidence, Martin reports, that the original report could not be correct.

Despite what the investigation calls these "red flags," no investigation or even an inquiry was made and there was no effort to correct the original press release which repeated the false report that civilians had been killed by a roadside bomb.

Three officers already have been relieved of command and now that the investigation has been completed and reviewed by Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq and disciplinary action against more and in some cases higher ranking officers is expected, Martin reports.

Chiarelli's report was based on an investigation conducted by Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell into whether the Marines followed proper procedures in reporting the incident to commanders, or whether anyone engaged in a cover-up.

The investigation was separate from an inquiry still under way into whether a small number of Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment murdered the 24 civilians, including unarmed women and children, on Nov. 19 after a roadside bomb in the town killed one of their comrades.

In other developments:

  • President Bush asked Congress for a $50 billion down payment for next year's Iraq and Afghanistan war costs. Almost half the money would be to provide food, water and medical support for troops, purchase parts and fuel for equipment and maintain military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. About a quarter of the funds would be for replacing damaged weapons and equipment.
  • The Army private accused of raping an Iraqi woman and killing her and her family was discharged for what was described as an "anti-social personality disorder." The Army says it discharged more than 1,000 last year for personality disorders. That total represents about 1.2 percent of the soldiers given early discharges during the year ending last September.
  • Bombs and a mortar round struck Sunni mosques in Baghdad and northeast of the capital Friday, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 50, authorities said. The mortar round landed in front of the al-Nidaa Sunni mosque in northern Baghdad about 2 p.m., killing five people, including a policeman, and wounding two worshippers, the army said.
  • The individual that the U.S. military says it captured in Sadr City is described as the head of multiple insurgent cells in Baghdad, reports . Apparently, his followers have kidnapped, tortured and murdered Iraqi civilians and he's also in charge of what they're calling a punishment committee.
  • Iraqi forces backed by U.S. aircraft battled militants in Sadr City, a Shiite stronghold of eastern Baghdad, early Friday, killing or wounding more than 30 fighters and capturing an extremist leader who was the target of the raid, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.
  • Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers arrested a top regional commander of a Shiite militia near Hillah, a U.S. statement said. The moves appeared part of a crackdown on sectarian militias blamed for the escalation in Shiite-Sunni violence that has led to fears of civil war in recent months.
  • America's two top officials in Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey, sought to calm Iraqi anger over allegations that U.S. soldiers were involved in the rape-murder of a girl, promising an open investigation and calling such acts "absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable."

    A U.S. military official said Chiarelli agreed with Bargewell's findings for the most part, but there were some areas in which he recommended a different course of action. The official did not elaborate.

    He said the investigation found that errors were made in the reporting and follow up of initial allegations after the killings and suggested some were of a criminal nature.

    "It essentially bolsters the ongoing criminal investigation and lays bare some of the administrative faults that existed during November 2005," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the findings have not been publicly released.

    "What some of these people did wrong is certainly not illegal or criminal, but administratively their actions are something that Gen. Chiarelli wants to look at," the official said.

    The official said the military hoped to release most of the findings in the next two weeks, but anything that could be used in the criminal investigation would not be made public.

    "Some of the portions will be redacted because they could be used in a criminal investigation, either a current one or one in the future," he said.

    The case is one of several allegations of U.S. abuse of Iraqi civilians that threaten to further weaken popular support for the Iraq war in the United States and tarnish the military's image.

    Iraq has ordered its own probe of the killings, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki using unusually strong language to condemn them.