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U.S. Military Probes Second Set of Iraq Killings


The U.S. military has confirmed another investigation into allegations that American troops killed Iraqi civilians. This incidence occurred in March in a Sunni village northwest of Baghdad.

The military initially said that a building collapsed during a firefight with an insurgent and killed a number of civilians inside. But evidence from Iraqi police and witnesses suggest the civilians may have been shot first and the building demolished later.

NPR's Peter Kenyon is in Baghdad and joins us now. And Peter, first, we're trying to keep these incidences straight. There's the incident in Haditha, which has received a lot of attention: western Iraq, 24 Iraqi's killed there. And now, we have another incident where there're videotape scenes and interviews with survivors.

PETER KENYON, reporting:

That's right. I've seen the videos and in this case - it involves a village, by the way, called Ishaqi, and it's northwest of Baghdad. And these pictures, I have to say, are more graphic and disturbing than the scenes from Haditha. The main difference is that these shots include pictures of dead bodies, both adults and young children.

According to the Iraqi's, these are evidence, not just sensationalism, because they do show what appear to be bullet wounds. But they do not show signs of bodies being crushed by falling debris and that was the military account.

Now, we have to note that this video only shows some of the bodies and there's no way to tell whether the bullet wounds were inflicted in a long-distance firefight, as the military claims, or more directly, as the villagers claim.

But there's certainly evidence to suggest more questions need to be asked; and this is the question the investigators will certainly be trying to clarify: did Americans walk into this building and shoot civilians, as the Iraqi's claim, or was is all conducted from a distance during a firefight?

INSKEEP: Why is the U.S. military asking these questions now, given that they dismissed the allegations when they first surfaced in March?

KENYON: Well, a good question. As usual with military investigations, the details are closely held. The military is confirming Ishaqi is one of three or four ongoing probes; you mentioned Haditha already. There's one in Hamadiya involving a single Iraqi killed, and now Ishaqi.

But the Iraqi police filed an investigative report on this right after it happened in mid-March. The U.S. military then, said oh, that's very unlikely. They dismissed it. Why they changed that initial story, if they have, and are now investigating, is a bit unclear.

INSKEEP: How's all of this affecting the political situation in Iraq?

KENYON: Well, as you've probably noticed, the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown increasingly harsh in his comments against the alleged abuses by U.S. forces, day-by-day. And, of course, as we've been reporting all along, Iraqi civilians are not all that excited about these particular cases, because they see similar accounts and they certainly hear even worse accounts, whether they're true or not everyday in the rumor mill. But we are now beginning to see small signs that that is changing. We're hearing more recognition from ordinary Iraqis when questioned from places like Haditha or Hamadiya have come up. And it could grow into a point of tension between the new Iraqi government and Washington, as time goes by.

For example, military investigators may want to exhume bodies from Haditha, that's very much against Islamic practice and tradition. Also Prime Minister Maliki wants the Americans to hand over their files on Haditha. And, of course, it's not clear that the U.S. will be willing or certainly be required to do that.

INSKEEP: Okay. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Baghdad, where the U.S. military has confirmed that it's investigating new allegations of the killing of Iraqi civilians at the hands of American troops. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.