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At least 5 Marines are expected to be charged in Iraqi deaths

Published Dec. 6, 2006

At least five Marines are expected to be charged, possibly as early as today, with the killing of 24 Iraqis, many of them unarmed women and children, in the village of Haditha in November 2005, a Marine official and a lawyer involved in the case told the New York Times.

The charges are expected to range from negligent homicide to murder, said a senior Pentagon official familiar with the military's nearly nine-month investigation into the episode. Several Marines from the 3rd Platoon of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, are accused of killing the villagers after a roadside explosion killed one of their comrades.

Charges could also be brought against an additional one or two Marines, the Marine official said.

Though it was nearly certain that Marines would be charged with crimes for the killings, exactly when the charges would be made official was unclear, military officials and defense lawyers involved in the case said. But they said charges could closely follow a closed-door briefing by Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, the Marine Corps deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, to the House Armed Services Committee this morning.

That briefing will relate the findings of a military inquiry into how the Marine Corps managed its investigation of the slayings, which began with an inquiry in March, four months after the killings occurred, the Pentagon official said.

According to the Marine official and the defense lawyer representing one of the Marines under investigation, criminal charges will be filed against Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, of Meriden, Conn., the squad's leader; Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, 25, of Edmund, Okla.; Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, 21, of Carbondale, Pa.; Cpl. Sanick Dela Cruz, 24, of Chicago; and Cpl. Hector Salinas, 22, of Houston.