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Marine Joint Chiefs chair declines comment on Haditha killings probe

[JURIST] US Marine Corps General Peter Pace [official profile], chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff [official website], declined comment Monday on the Pentagon's investigation into the November 2005 killings of up to two dozen Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] in the troubled city of Haditha, in the western Anbar province of Iraq. Pace emphasized that if service members are found responsible for the atrocity, they “have not performed their duty the way that 99.9 percent of their fellow Marines have.” Responding to a question as to how such a thing could have happened, Pace said “Fortunately, it does not happen very frequently, so there’s no way to say historically why something like this might have happened. We’ll find out.”

Pace’s interview on CBS’s The Early Show [program website] occurred a day after Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), appeared [JURIST report] on ABC’s This Week and described the Haditha incident as “worse than Abu Ghraib” for the US, and said the killings had been committed "in cold blood." A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP on Friday that the evidence gathered to date strongly indicates that the Haditha killings were unjustified [JURIST report]. AP has more.

4:15 PM ET - In a parallel appearance Monday on CNN's American Morning program, Pace said that two investigations were in fact under way, one relating to the November 2005 incident and another to determine why senior officials remained unaware of it until February this year. Pace promised to make the results of the investigations public. The commander of Multinational Corps Iraq [official website], Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, began a preliminary probe Feb. 14 [AFPS report] after officials learned details of the Haditha incident from reporters; that probe was extended in mid-March when the TIME report began to surface. In the meantime Pace said that he would wait before saying anything else: "If the allegations, as they're being portrayed in the newspaper, turn out to be valid, then of course there will be charges. But we don't know yet what the outcome will be. It'll take its course. It will be made public, and we'll all be able to make our own judgments." AFPS has more.

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