WASHINGTON : A US lawmaker and retired Marine colonel accused US marines of killing innocent Iraqi civilians after a Marine comrade was slain by a roadside bomb.
"Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood," John Murtha told reporters.
"There was no firefight" that led to the shootings at close range, the Vietnam war veteran said, contradicting early official accounts saying a roadside bomb had killed the Iraqis in the November 19 incident.
"There were no (roadside bombs) that killed these innocent people," he said.
On March 27, a Time magazine report cited an Iraqi human rights group and residents of Haditha, Iraq, who said Marines barged into the home throwing grenades and shooting, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis including women and children.
Murtha said the death toll could be "twice as high".
"It's much worse than reported in Time magazine," he said.
At least three Marine officers are under official investigation, and no official report has been released, the Army Times newspaper said Wednesday.
"I do not know where representative Murtha is obtaining his information," Lieutenant Colonel Sean Gibson, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Army Times. "Thoroughness will drive the investigation."
Murtha is a harsh critic of the war in Iraq and said such incidents result from inadequate planning, training and troop numbers in Iraq.
"I feel that the tremendous pressure and the redeployment over and over again is a big part of this.
"These guys are under tremendous strain, more strain than I can conceive of. And this strain has caused them to crack in situations like this," he said.
Six months ago, Murtha shocked Washington by introducing a resolution in Congress to withdraw US troops from Iraq.
"Since that time, we've lost 370 Americans, we're spending nine billion dollars a month, (violent attacks) have increased from 550 a week to 900 a week, and we lost 1,000 Iraqis in the last month," the Pennsylvania Democrat said.
"Now, you can imagine the impact this is going to have on those troops for the rest of their life and for the United States in our war and our effort in trying to win the hearts and minds?"
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