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Military investigates shooting of wounded insurgent

Commanders fear tape will discourage surrendering


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U.S. Marines arrive at the mosque in Falluja on Saturday.
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The U.S. Marines are investigating the shooting of an apparently unarmed insurgent.

(WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT) U.S. Marines apparently shoot an enemy combatant who's pretending to be dead.

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FALLUJA, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military is investigating whether a Marine shot dead an unarmed, wounded insurgent during the battle for Falluja in an incident captured on videotape by a pool reporter.

The man was shot in the head at close range Saturday by a Marine who found him among a group of wounded men. The wounded men were found in a mosque that Marines said had been the source of small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire the previous day.

The Marine in the videotape has been removed from his unit and taken to the headquarters of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Navy's Criminal Investigative Service said it plans to question one of the other wounded Iraqis as part of the probe, according to the pool reporter embedded with the unit.

"Let me make it perfectly clear: We follow the law of armed conflict and we hold ourselves to high standard of accountability," Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler said Tuesday. "The facts of this case will be thoroughly pursued to make an informed decision and to protect rights of all persons involved."

The investigation will determine whether the Marine violated any rules or should be charged with any crime. Lt. Col. Bob Miller, a staff judge advocate for the 1st Marine Division, said wounded insurgents who pose no threat generally "would not be considered hostile."

The Marine seen shooting the man was part of a squad from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, which had been part of intense house-to-house fighting in southern Falluja.

U.S. rules of engagement prohibit American troops from killing any prisoner who does not pose a threat, and commanders say they are worried the video might encourage more insurgents to fight to the death rather than surrender.

The military asked that networks obscure the names and recognizable faces of the Marines inside the mosque when they broadcast video of the incident. The request came from Marine judge advocate Col. John Weil to NBC News, which videotaped the killing, and was based on privacy concerns.

Friday, the Marines were fired upon by snipers and insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades from a mosque and an adjacent building. The Marines returned fire with tank shells and machine guns.

They eventually stormed the mosque, killing 10 insurgents and wounding five others, and showing off a cache of rifles and grenades for journalists.

The Marines told the pool reporter that the wounded men would be left behind for others to pick up and move to the rear for treatment. But Saturday, another squad of Marines found that the mosque had been reoccupied by insurgents and attacked it again, only to find the same wounded men inside.

Four of the men appeared to have been shot again in Saturday's fighting, and one of them appeared to be dead, according to the pool report. In the video, a Marine was seen noticing that one of the men appeared to be breathing.

A Marine approached one of the men in the mosque saying, "He's [expletive] faking he's dead. He's faking he's [expletive] dead."

The Marine raised his rifle and fired into the apparently wounded man's head, at which point a companion said, "Well, he's dead now."

When told by the pool reporter that the men were among those wounded in Friday's firefight, the Marine who fired the shot said, "I didn't know, sir. I didn't know."

The Marines said they are investigating why the wounded Iraqis were left behind for 24 hours and whether the man was killed illegally. Navy investigators said they believe they have located the fifth Iraqi -- the only one not wounded a second time -- who said he wanted to provide information about the killing.

Before the Marines entered the mosque Saturday, a lieutenant from one of two squads involved in the fighting was told that there were people inside.

"Did you shoot them?" he asked.

"Roger that, sir," one of the men replied.

"Were they armed?" the lieutenant asked. The other Marine shrugged.

The Marine who shot the Iraqi man had reportedly been returned to duty after suffering a minor facial wound Friday.

About a block away, a Marine was killed and five others wounded by a booby-trapped body they found in a house after a shootout with insurgents.

The human rights organization Amnesty International raised concerns about violations of the rules of war last week, after a British news program broadcast video of what it said was the killing of another wounded insurgent by U.S. troops.

Amnesty also noted reports that insurgents have used mosques as fighting positions, and in one incident appear to have used a white flag to lure Marines into an ambush.

"All violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be investigated and those responsible for unlawful attacks, including deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, and the killing of injured persons must be brought to justice," the group said in a statement issued Thursday.


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