Baghdad, Iraq A military investigation into allegations that American troops intentionally killed civilians in Ishaqi, a village north of Baghdad, has cleared them of misconduct, the U.S. said Friday - even though it acknowledged the deaths of up to 13 Iraqis in the March raid.
Meanwhile, an attorney representing families of some of the two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by U.S. Marines on Nov. 19 in the western town of Haditha said three or four Marines carried out the shootings while 20 more waited outside the homes. He also said victims' relatives turned down a request by U.S. investigators to exhume the victims' bodies for forensic tests.
The investigation of the March 15 attack in Ishaqi concluded that the U.S. troops followed normal procedures in raising the level of force as they came under attack upon approaching a building where they believed an al-Qaida terrorist was hiding, said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S military spokesman.
Caldwell also acknowledged there were "possibly up to nine collateral deaths" in addition to the four Iraqi deaths that the military announced at the time.
The probe was part of U.S. investigations into possible misconduct by American troops in at least three separate areas of Iraq. Besides Haditha and Ishaqi, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman could face murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges in the April shooting death of an Iraqi man west of Baghdad.
The military said Friday it will cooperate with the Iraqi government in its own investigation of Haditha and other incidents of alleged wrongdoing by U.S. troops. "We're going to give them whatever assistance they need as a part of this investigation," said Army Brig. Gen. Donald Campbell, the chief of staff for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Campbell's pledge came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki upbraided the U.S. military over Haditha, which he called "a horrible crime," and accused U.S. troops of habitually attacking unarmed civilians.
On Friday, White House press secretary Tony Snow said al-Maliki had told U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad that he had been misquoted. But Snow was unable to explain what al-Maliki told Khalilzad or how he had been misquoted.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the training and conduct of U.S. troops and said incidents such as the alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha shouldn't happen.
"We know that 99.9 percent of our forces conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. We also know that in conflicts things that shouldn't happen do happen," he said. "We don't expect U.S. soldiers to act that way, and they're trained not to."
In one of the homes, Marines ordered four brothers inside a closet and shot them dead, said the Haditha lawyer, Khaled Salem Rsayef.