The U.S. military is investigating a
The dramatic footage was taken Saturday by pool correspondent Kevin Sites, who said three other prisoners wounded a day earlier in the mosque had also apparently been shot the next day by the Marines.
A spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters in the Pentagon, Maj. Doug Powell, said the incident was "being investigated." He had no further details, other than to confirm the incident happened on Saturday and that the Marines involved were part of the 1st Marine Division.
On Tuesday, the U.S. military said in a statement that the 1st Marine Division is investigating an allegation of the unlawful use of force in the death of an enemy combatant in Fallujah during combat operations on Saturday
The Marine has been withdrawn from the battlefield pending the results of the investigation, the U.S. military said. There are reports that he may have been shot himself a day earlier.
"We follow the law of armed conflict and hold ourselves to a high standard of accountability," said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. "The facts of this case will be thoroughly pursued to make an informed decision and to protect the rights of all persons involved."
CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports that the videotape shows a squad of Marines finding a room of wounded insurgents inside a mosque, which was a former insurgent stronghold and was believed by Marines to be the source of heavy enemy fire.
The tape shows a Marine shouting out that one of the wounded is playing "possum."
"He's f--ing faking he's dead!" says the Marine.
A second Marine says, "And he's breathing!"
The first Marine then repeats "He's f--ing faking he's dead!" and is shown raising his rifle toward a prisoner lying on the floor of the mosque. News organizations that have shown the video did not show the bullet hitting the man. At that moment, the video is blacked out but the sound of the rifle can be heard.
A Marine then says, according to the videotape: "He's dead now."
It turns out the insurgents were unarmed, left in the mosque by a previous squad of Marines to await medical evacuation, Andrews reports. But the second squad did not know that; commanders had not evacuated the wounded because U.S. troops were still under fire.
"If the Marines are engaged in combat operations still, then it's not prudent for the commander to pull out his Marines from contact to render aid such as evacuating enemy wounded," explains Lt. Bob Miller, Staff Judge Advocate of the 1st Marine Division.
The blacked-out portion of the videotape is reported to show the bullet striking the man in the upper body, possibly the head. His blood splatters on the wall behind him and his body goes limp.
The incident played out as the Marines 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, returned to the unidentified Fallujah mosque Saturday. Sites was embedded with the unit.
Sites reported that a different Marine unit came under fire from the mosque Friday and those Marines stormed the building, killing ten men and wounding five others. The Marines said the fighters in the mosque had been armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 rifles.
The Marines had treated the wounded, he reported, left them behind and continued on Friday with their drive to retake the city from insurgents who have been battling U.S.-led occupation forces in Iraq with increasing ferocity and violence in recent months.
Sites said a Marine in the same unit had been killed just a day earlier as he tended to the booby-trapped dead body of an insurgent.
The events in the video began as some of the Marines from the unit accompanied by Sites approached the mosque on Saturday, a day after it was stormed by other Marines.
Gunfire can be heard from inside the mosque, and at its entrance, Marines who were already in the building emerge. They are asked by an approaching Marine lieutenant if there were insurgents inside and if the Marines had shot any of them. A Marine can be heard responding affirmatively. The lieutenant then asks if they were armed and a fellow Marine shrugs.
Sites' account said the wounded men, who he said were prisoners and who were hurt in the previous day's attack, had been shot again by the Marines on the Saturday visit.
The videotape showed two of the wounded men propped against the wall and Sites said they were bleeding to death. According to his report, a third wounded man appeared already dead, while a fourth was severely wounded but breathing. The fifth was covered by a blanket but did not appear to have been shot again after the Marines returned. It was the fourth man who was shown being shot.
At the request of the military, the name tags, backpack IDs and faces of Marines have been obscured by news organizations showing the video to prevent their identification while the investigation is in progress.