Marine Answers Charges in Iraq Killings

A Marine lieutenant colonel has been arraigned on charges of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis civilians.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani is the highest ranking serviceman to face courts-martial related to combat since the Vietnam War.

At Friday's arraignment he reserved the right to enter a plea at a later date. He also deferred the decision of whether to have his courts-martial heard by a jury of his peers or a military judge.

Chessani has been charged with dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order on allegations that he mishandled the aftermath of the Nov. 19, 2005, shooting deaths in Haditha.

Earlier that day, the squad's convoy was struck by a roadside bomb, killing one Marine and wounding another.

In the aftermath, according to military authorities, squad members killed 24 civilians.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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