SAN DIEGO (AP) — The highest-ranking U.S. serviceman to face court-martial involving combat since Vietnam was ordered to trial Friday for failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis, including women and children, in Haditha two years ago.
Another Marine was also ordered to face court-martial for charges including involuntary manslaughter.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani faces charges of dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order on allegations that he mishandled the aftermath of the Nov. 19, 2005, shootings, which followed a roadside bombing that killed a Marine driver.
Chessani was commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment that has been the focus of the biggest prosecution of U.S. troops in the Iraq war.
At Chessani's preliminary hearing, held in June at Camp Pendleton, several witnesses testified local Iraqis had complained to Chessani in the days after the killings and that he promised to look into what had happened.
But Chessani said he never ordered a formal investigation because he believed the deaths resulted from lawful combat.