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Pentagon: Lesser charges proposed for Marine in Haditha incident

  • Story Highlights
  • If advice accepted, it could mean no one in Haditha case will be tried for murder
  • Iraq to buy weapons from China; $100 million worth, Washington Post says
  • Pentagon: Detainee financed terror operations across country
  • Financier allegedly paid $3,000 per roadside bomb operation
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The case against a Marine accused of murder in a 2005 incident involving the killings of Iraqi civilians in Haditha "is simply not strong enough to prove against a reasonable doubt," the investigating officer said Thursday.

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The investigating officer has recommended that Sgt. Frank Wuterich not be tried for murder.

Lt. Col. Paul Ware recommended that Sgt. Frank Wuterich face trial for lesser charges of negligent homicide.

The case involved allegations that Marines killed up to two dozen Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha, Iraq, in November 2005.

Ware said the evidence indicated Wuterich "failed to exercise due care in his own actions in supervising his Marines."

"When a Marine fails to exercise due care in a combat environment resulting in the death of innocents, the charge of negligent homicide, not murder, is the appropriate offense," he said in a statement.

The recommendation goes to Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commanding general overseeing the case, who will make the final decision.

If the recommendation is accepted, it could mean that no one in the Haditha case will be tried for murder.

Four enlisted Marines were initially accused in the case, and charges against two have been dropped. Murder charges remain against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, although Ware has recommended dropping all charges against him. Ware said the evidence is too weak for a court martial.

Four officers were later accused of failing to investigate and report the deaths properly. Charges against two of them have been dropped.

Haditha, along the Euphrates River, was the target of previous Marine campaigns aimed at rooting out insurgents. Wuterich was leading a patrol through the city on November 19, 2005, when the unit was hit by a roadside bomb that killed one of its members.

Twenty-four civilians were killed in what a human rights group and military prosecutors said was a house-to-house rampage by Marines after the bomb exploded.

The military began investigating the killings in March 2006, and charges were brought the following December.

A statement from the Marine Corps originally blamed the civilian deaths on the roadside bomb, triggering a parallel investigation into how commanders handled the incident.

Arrest made in terrorist financing case

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. military announced the arrest of a man who smuggled $100 million into Iraq during the past few months to finance terrorist operations.

The unidentified man, arrested Tuesday near Baghdad, allegedly employs 40 to 50 extremists at $3,000 per job for al Qaeda in Iraq bomb attacks against coalition forces, using money from supporters outside Iraq, the military said.

"The extremist financier is suspected of traveling to foreign countries to acquire financial support for terrorist activities and is suspected of supplying more than $50,000 to al Qaeda each month," the military said.

The suspect, captured during a coalition raid in Kindi, operates a network of financing cells across Iraq, the military said.

"He is believed to have received $100 million this summer from terrorist supporters who cross the Iraq border illegally or fly into Iraq from Italy, Syria and Egypt," the military said.

The $100 million figure is based on intelligence report estimates over several months, a spokesman for Multi-National Corps-Iraq said.

The man is also accused of purchasing some of the explosives and weapons used in the 2006 attack on Samarra's al-Askariya mosque, also known as the Golden Mosque, and a second attack on it in 2007.

The attacks heightened sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

During a separate operation in Radwaniya on Tuesday, Iraqi forces detained a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq platoon leader who commands 15 men in attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces with roadside bombs and direct assaults, the military said.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi Ministry of Information spokesman said Thursday that Iraq has entered into a "substantial" deal with China to purchase weapons and light military equipment for its police forces, because the Asian nation promised the fastest delivery.

Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf told CNN he was unable to confirm that his country was spending $100 million for the items, a number reported in Thursday's editions of The Washington Post, which quoted Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Khalaf said there have been delivery delays from other countries, including the United States, and adequately arming police forces is a priority in Iraq's goal to provide its own security. In the United States, there are several layers of review before military equipment sales are approved.

Khalaf said the deal was made last June during a visit to China by Talabani and Minister of Interior Jawad al-Bolani, whose department is in charge of policing and border control.

Other developments:

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has protected relatives and political allies from corruption investigations amid a climate of worsening graft that has cost the country billions of dollars, a former Iraqi government watchdog told the U.S. Congress on Thursday. Corruption has affected "virtually every agency and ministry, including some of the most powerful officials in Iraq," said Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the former head of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity.
  • A roadside bomb Thursday killed Abbas Hamza Asal al-Khafaji, the mayor of Iskandariya, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Baghdad, and four of his escorts, a Babil provincial official told CNN.
  • The head of the Salaheddin Awakening Council -- an alliance of Sunni tribes aligning against al Qaeda in Iraq -- was critically wounded in a bombing outside Samarra, the province's deputy governor said. The roadside bombing killed three of his bodyguards, the deputy governor said.
  • A roadside bomb targeted a U.S. convoy in the northeastern region of Hay Ur, wounding six Iraqi civilians, an Interior Ministry official said. The convoy escaped harm.
  • A roadside bomb killed one Iraqi and wounded four others in Baghdad's northern Waziriya neighborhood.
  • A car bomb near a gas station killed two and wounded 11 in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Camp Sara.
  • A car bomb in Baghdad's southeastern Zafaraniya neighborhood killed four and wounded eight.
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    CNN's Jamie McIntyre, Saad Abedine and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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