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Military probes other deaths in Falluja incident

Video shows shooting of apparently unarmed, wounded Iraqi


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In this image from video, a Marine raises his rifle shortly before firing it into an apparently wounded insurgent.
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The military is investigating the deaths of other Iraqis in a Falluja mosque.

(WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT) Marines probed in mosque shootings.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Officers are investigating the deaths of other Iraqis seen on the same videotape that depicted a Marine shooting an apparently wounded and unarmed insurgent in Falluja, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

The incident occurred during house-to-house fighting Saturday in the Iraqi city. It was captured on video by a pool reporter who accompanied the Marines into a mosque, which the squad said had been the source of small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire a day earlier.

On the video, a Marine shoots one of five men who were thought to have been wounded in the Friday skirmish and left in the mosque. The Marine has been withdrawn from the battlefield until the investigation is complete, said Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

"Let me make it perfectly clear: We follow the law of armed conflict, and we hold ourselves to a high standard of accountability," Sattler told reporters Tuesday in Iraq.

The men left in the mosque had been shot during fighting on Friday, when troops from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, battled their way through the area. They were given first aid and left behind with the expectation that they would receive additional care.

The men appeared to have suffered fresh wounds before the incident captured on video, and only one of the five is believed to have survived. The investigation will look into all four deaths and the actions of all the Marines involved, a Pentagon official told CNN.

In the video, a Marine was heard 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 man's head, at which point a companion said, "Well, he's dead now."

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

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

"Did you shoot them?" he is seen asking on the videotape.

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

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

Encouraged insurgency feared

U.S. commanders said they are worried the video might encourage more insurgents to fight to the death rather than surrender, and Iraqis who watched the scene on television said they were stunned.

"What we've seen in Falluja is man-to-man fighting, fighting with insurgents or the people of Falluja who carry arms. We have no problem with that," one customer in a Baghdad teahouse told CNN. "But the killing of an unarmed man in a place of worship is unacceptable."

Ismael Zayer, editor of the Baghdad daily newspaper New Sabah, compared the scene to the images of U.S. troops abusing inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. And Iraqi political scientist Wameed Nadmi said the images could stoke support for the insurgents.

"Once you accept the rules of the jungle, then you should be aware that in the jungle there are beasts you cannot predict," Nadmi said.

But Iraqi Interior Minister Falih al-Nakib said the insurgents share the blame for the incident.

"These battles should not be fought in mosques, and they should not use these places as a cover," he said. "The killing of a wounded person by a soldier is unlawful, and I think the multinational force will investigate that."

Retired Army Brig. Gen. James Marks said the incident had to be seen in the context of the recent heavy fighting in Falluja, a stronghold of the Iraqi insurgency that U.S. and Iraqi government forces spent the last week trying to subdue.

"A buddy the day before had been killed in a very similar incident where an insurgent who was playing dead had in fact been booby trapped, and a number of Marines had been injured and wounded and one Marine was killed," Marks said.

But human rights groups that have reviewed the tape think it clearly depicts a war crime.

Steve Crawshaw, the London director of Human Rights Watch, said the body language of the Marines indicates "they do not feel under threat."

"Every soldier on the ground knows it's an absolute basic of warfare that when you have a wounded person that is not a threat to them, it is absolutely prohibited to further injure or to kill that person. It's a real basic of international law," Crawshaw said.

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

"U.S. and Iraqi forces should be clear that under international law they have an obligation to protect and provide necessary medical attention to wounded insurgents who are no longer posing a threat, as well as to civilians," Amnesty said in a statement issued Tuesday.

And Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, issued a statement Tuesday, saying her office is "deeply concerned" about the civilians caught in the crossfire and calling on all parties to take "every possible precaution" to protect residents.

"The high commissioner considers that all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be investigated and those responsible for breaches -- including deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons and the use of human shields -- must be brought to justice, be they members of the multinational force or insurgents," the statement said.

Jamie McIntyre and Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.


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