[JURIST] US Marine Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich [Wikipedia profile], commander of the platoon implicated in the deaths of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha [JURIST report], told his attorney that his unit followed the rules of engagement and did not purposefully attack civilians, the Washington Post reported Sunday. Wuterich contends that his platoon entered houses in pursuit of gunmen who opened fire on them after a roadside bomb detonated and killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas. The deaths occurred during a sweep in which they used fragmentation grenades and clearing fire before entering rooms. Wuterich also said that his unit stayed in contact with company headquarters, never attempted to cover up the incident, and immediately reported that 12 to 15 civilians had been killed during the firefight in Haditha [JURIST news archive].
A preliminary US investigation [JURIST report] suggested the victims had been shot without provocation by the Marines. The military is currently conducting two official investigations [JURIST report] into the incident - one about the actions of the Marines involved and one into whether military officials obscured facts and tried to cover up the incident and President Bush has promised [JURIST report] that any Marines who committed crimes will be punished. Reuters has more.