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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 May 2006, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Bush 'troubled' by Haditha report
Bodies of Haditha victims
The official US version differs widely from that of locals and the media
US President George W Bush has said he is "troubled" by reports of an alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians by US marines last November.

Making his first public comments on the issue, Mr Bush said if anyone had broken the law they would be punished.

His comments followed claims that the killings of 24 people in the town of Haditha were covered up.

On Tuesday, the US government promised to make public all the details of inquiries into the alleged massacre.

"If, in fact, these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that... those who violated the law - if indeed they did - will be punished," Mr Bush told a press conference in Washington.

The Pentagon is close to ending its two separate inquiries into the killings in Haditha, initially attributed to a clash with militants.

If this incident is true, then there is no excuse for it
Chris, Brazil

According to initial US military reports, 15 civilians and eight insurgents died after a bomb killed a marine in Haditha, a militant stronghold in Anbar Province.

But the army now says it is investigating a total of 24 deaths.

'Shock and sadness'

Over the past few days the American media has been dominated by pictures and interviews of Iraqis in Haditha, says the BBC's Andy Gallacher.

Politicians fear that the repercussions could be far worse than the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, our correspondent says, with some politicians convinced that there has been a cover-up.

November 2005: Initial US military report
One US marine killed in roadside bomb, two injured
Explosion also kills 15 Iraqi civilians
Eight insurgents killed in fire-fight following blast
January 2006: US military preliminary investigation
One US marine killed in roadside bomb, two injured
Fifteen civilians accidentally killed by US fire amid battle with insurgents
March 2006: US military begins criminal investigation

A member of the Iraqi parliament and former foreign minister, Adnan Pachachi, says the allegations have sparked "a feeling of great shock and sadness" amongst Iraqis.

"There must be a level of discipline imposed on the American troops and change of mentality which seems to think that Iraqi lives are expendable," he told the BBC.

But the UK's human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, who is in Baghdad at the moment, says the events in Haditha should "not be taken out of context".

"I would say as I did over Abu Ghraib... [this is] a small group of people out of the many thousands of British and American and other soldiers who are here who have done a good job by and large," she told the BBC.


White House spokesman Tony Snow said on Tuesday that the US Marine Corps was taking an "active and aggressive role" in investigating the allegations.

The Pentagon had assured him that "all the details" of the inquiries would be made public, he said.

When my father opened [the door] they shot him and then again. Then they threw a hand grenade into the bathroom... The Americans carried on shooting.
Safa Younis
Haditha survivor

US investigators are looking at both the actual events in Haditha and the alleged cover-up by troops.

The military said at the time that the civilians were killed as a result of either the bomb or a gun battle which erupted afterwards, in which the militants were reportedly killed.

But reports from Iraqi witnesses and in the US media allege that marines went on a rampage.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there is evidence that marines killed civilians, including women and children, without provocation.

Several marines are likely to be charged with murder and others with attempting to cover up the incident, the newspaper said, quoting civilian and military officials close to the investigations.

Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki says the killings are 'unjustifiable'

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