SAN DIEGO -- The Navy is investigating allegations that Marines from Camp Pendleton killed five to 10 unarmed captives during a fierce battle in Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004, current and former Marines have said.
The criminal probe centers on the actions of several members of Kilo Company, Third Battalion, First Marines, they told the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Different members of the same unit were later accused of wrongdoing in the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha in 2005.
The investigation was launched after Ryan Weemer, a former Marine corporal injured while fighting in Fallujah, applied for a job with the Secret Service, according to an online report by military author Nathaniel R. Helms, who interviewed Weemer last year. When asked during a polygraph test if he had ever participated in a wrongful death, Weemer described the killings of the suspected insurgents, Helms wrote.
Weemer, 24, from Hindsboro, Ill., could not be reached for comment, but his sister Felicia Hudson said he was trying to put the event behind him.
"He does not like to talk about it," Hudson said. "He is very proud to be a Marine but he wants to get past all this and look to the future."
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has confirmed that it is investigating "credible allegations of wrongdoing made against US Marines" in Fallujah in the fall of 2004, but the service has not described the allegations in detail .
News that investigators were looking into the actions of Camp Pendleton Marines was first reported by the North (San Diego) County Times.
Helms also posted a story online this week describing how he met Weemer last year while researching a book about the ferocious battles to recapture Fallujah from insurgents.
He said Weemer told him that Marines killed several suspected insurgents who were being held after they were captured in combat around Nov. 10, 2004.
The Marines radioed headquarters on how to proceed. The group's leader interpreted the response, "They're still alive?" as an order to kill, Helms said.
David Glazier, who teaches the law of war at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said it is a war crime to kill captives who do not pose an immediate threat, unless they are escaping.
"Someone who has been taken into custody, they become protected under the law of war, no matter how egregiously they have behaved," Glazier said. "They can only be shot subject to the sentence of a validly conducted trial."