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U.S. Commander in Iraq Calls Shooting 'Tragic'

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 17, 2004; Page A15

BAGHDAD, Nov. 16 -- The killing of a wounded Iraqi by a U.S. Marine in Fallujah was termed a "tragic incident" by the U.S. military commander in Iraq on Tuesday as Arab satellite channels replayed unedited footage of the shooting as often as every half-hour.

"It's being investigated, and justice will be done," Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said as he toured Fallujah at the end of a U.S. incursion there to root out insurgents. "That's the way we operate. This whole operation was about the rule of law, and justice will be done."


Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., touring Fallujah, said the killing of a wounded insurgent by a Marine was "being investigated, and justice will be done." Unedited video of the killing was played repeatedly on two Arab networks. (Akram Saleh -- Reuters)

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The incident was captured on video Saturday by Kevin Sites, a freelancer working for NBC News who is embedded with a Marine unit. The videotape shows a squad of Marines entering a mosque strewn with debris where at least five wounded Iraqis are lying against a wall. One of the Marines begins shouting obscenities, saying one of the wounded men is feigning death. He then lifts his rifle and fires.

"He's dead now," a Marine is heard saying. NBC said the Marine who fired the shot had been wounded the day before but had quickly returned to duty.

While U.S. networks declined to air the actual shooting, Arab networks such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya broadcast the entire incident, with graphics and narration illustrating the sequence of events. At times, the images were frozen. The gunshot splashed blood against the wall behind the Iraqi's head, and the man's body went limp.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch echoed calls by the top U.N. human rights official, Louise Arbour, for an investigation of possible abuses in Fallujah.

"The deliberate shooting of unarmed and wounded fighters who pose no immediate threat is a war crime under international law, and there is therefore an obligation on the U.S. authorities to investigate all such reports and to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable before the law," Amnesty said in a statement.

Iraqi officials deferred to the U.S. military to handle the investigation.

"He is a U.S. soldier," said Thaer Naqib, a spokesman for Ayad Allawi, Iraq's interim prime minister. "We trust the leadership of the multinational force. They are going to provide him a fair trial. They will update us. We work together; we trust each other."

Among Iraqis interviewed Tuesday, however, questions about the shooting elicited stronger responses. "It is a war. What do you think they should do?" asked Dorayd Madhlum, 39, an electrical engineer. "They brought the terror to Iraq and they should get killed," he said, referring to the insurgents.

Others viewed the shooting in religious terms, a framework increasingly applied to a conflict that the more pious people here portray as one between Muslims and infidels. "This is forbidden," said Emad Sadeq, 31, a taxi driver. "How could they kill a wounded man? And inside a mosque? Did you see them enter the mosque with their guns and boots? This is too much. They should kill that soldier."

Special correspondents Naseer Nouri and Omar Fekeiki contributed to this report.


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