Iraqis Accuse Marines in April Killing Of Civilian
Monday, June 5, 2006
BAGHDAD, June 4 -- All parties to the case of Hashim Ibrahim Awad al-Zobaie agree that he was shot dead by Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment on April 26 in the small central Iraqi village of Hamdaniyah. But there are differing accounts of his death, and they are at the heart of another investigation into the conduct of American forces in Iraq.
Members of the Marine foot patrol under investigation in the case said they came upon Hashim digging a hole for a bomb near his home in the Sunni Arab village of about 30 homes near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. The Marines said they killed Hashim in a brief gun battle and that they found an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel by his side.
According to accounts given by Hashim's neighbors and members of his family, and apparently supported by photographs, the Marines went to Hashim's home, took the 52-year-old disabled Iraqi outside and shot him four times in the face. The assault rifle and shovel next to his body had been planted by the Marines, who had borrowed them from a villager, family members and other residents said.
Hashim's family alleged this weekend that a small group of U.S. servicemen came to them last week and offered the family money to support the Marines' version of the killing.
The slaying of Hashim, known in the village as Hashim the Lame because he had a metal bar surgically inserted into one leg several years ago, is the smaller and less prominent of two incidents being investigated over allegations of wrongful death and possible coverups. The other investigation, stemming from the deaths of 24 Iraqis on Nov. 19 in the western town of Haditha, is not expected to conclude until sometime this summer, Pentagon officials say. But a former Marine lawyer familiar with the case involving Hashim said Sunday that charges are expected and that the case "will move quickly."
"Look for them to be tried before the Haditha suspects," he said of the service members involved, on condition of anonymity.
Attorneys familiar with the case say seven Marines and a Navy corpsman are being investigated and all eight were removed from duty in Iraq and are being held at Camp Pendleton in California. The Associated Press said Friday that the highest-ranking person among the eight was a staff sergeant.
Members of Hashim's family interviewed by a Washington Post special correspondent on Saturday said the disabled man's last hours began about 2 a.m. on April 26, when members of a U.S. Marine foot patrol banged at the door of his one-story, walled compound.
The Marines grabbed Hashim by the front of his cotton robe as soon as he came to the door, pulling him from the house, said one of his sons, Nasir, 26, an arts student in Baghdad.
"Less than an hour later, we heard shooting," Nasir said. The family was too afraid of the U.S. forces to immediately investigate, Nasir said.
At daylight, the family found a wide hole in the dirt road about 500 yards from their home, wet with bloodstains and littered with discarded plastic gloves.
Going in search of Hashim, family members were told that Marines had brought his body to a local police station, Nasir said. The family eventually recovered their father's corpse from a hospital at Abu Ghraib, Nasir said.