Sunday, June 11, 2006 Posted: 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The senior Marine sergeant in charge during an incident in Haditha, Iraq, last November, says there was no massacre of civilians, and there was no wrongdoing on the Marines' part, his attorney told CNN.
Marine Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich told his attorney, Neal Puckett, that Marines followed the rules of engagement and standard operating procedure while they were clearing houses looking for insurgents November 19.
Puckett said there is more to the story than has been reported.
The military is investigating whether up to eight marines from Kilo company of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha after one of their own was killed in a roadside bombing and engaged in a cover-up. Three Marines have been relieved of their duties.
None of the Marines has been charged in the incident.
But defense attorney Paul Hackett, who may represent some of the other Marines besides Wuterich, told CNN that Wuterich is "devastated by this, and devastated by the way he's been portrayed in the media, and that he was not in charge of, or directed, or aware or even believes that the events unfolded as have been depicted popularly in the media."
Wuterich, Hackett said, was on his first tour in Iraq. He is in his mid-20s and the father of two young daughters, he said.
Senior Pentagon officials have said a probe into the November deaths tends to support allegations that Marines carried out an unprovoked massacre after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb.
The military is investigating both the deaths and a possible cover-up.
The Marines originally reported that Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha, a town on the Euphrates River in northwestern Iraq that was the scene of heavy fighting in 2005.
They later added that eight insurgents were killed in an ensuing gunbattle.