AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2The denunciation was an unusual declaration for a government that remains desperately dependent on American forces to keep some form of order in the country amid a resilient Sunni Arab insurgency in the west, widespread sectarian violence in Baghdad, and deadly feuding among Shiite militias in the south. It was also a sign of the growing pressure on al-Maliki, whose coalition includes Sunni Arabs who were especially enraged by news of the killings in Haditha, a city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province. At the same time, he is being pushed by the Americans to resolve the quarreling within his fragile coalition that has left him unable to fill Cabinet posts for the ministries of defense and interior, the two top security jobs in the country. Military and congressional officials have said they believe an investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis in Haditha on Nov. 19 will show that a group of Marines shot and killed civilians without justification or provocation. Survivors in Haditha say the troops shot men, women and children in the head and chest at close range. For the second day in a row, President George W. Bush spoke directly about the furor surrounding the case. “Obviously, the allegations are very troubling for me and equally troubling for our military, especially the Marine Corps,” Bush said Thursday, in response to a question from a reporter after a meeting of his Cabinet. Referring to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, “I’ve spoken to General (Peter) Pace about this issue quite a few times.” BAGHDAD, Iraq – Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the American military on Thursday, denouncing what he characterized as habitual attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians. As outrage over the disclosure that American Marines killed 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha last year continued to roil the new government, the country’s Sunni Arab deputy prime minister also demanded that American officials turn over their investigative files on the killings and said that the Iraqi government would conduct its own inquiry. In his comments, al-Maliki said violence against civilians had become a “daily phenomenon” by troops in the American-led coalition who “do not respect the Iraqi people.” “They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion,” he said. “This is completely unacceptable.” Attacks on civilians will play a role in future decisions on how long to ask American forces to remain in Iraq, the prime minister added. A Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Bryan Whitman, declined to comment Thursday on the ongoing inquiries, but he said that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had been “kept up to date on the status of the investigations.” Investigators, examining the role of senior commanders after the Haditha killings, are attempting to determine how high up culpability rests in the chain of command. Marine officials said Thursday that Maj. Gen Stephen T. Johnson, who was the top Marine commander in Iraq during the Haditha incident, had been expected to become the Marines’ senior officer in charge of manpower and personnel, a three-star position. Johnson is widely respected by the Marine Corps’ senior leadership, but officials said it is now unlikely that the Pentagon would put Johnson up for promotion until the Haditha investigations concluded. The Washington Post reported Thursday that a parallel investigation into whether the killings were covered up has concluded that some officers reported false information and that superiors failed to adequately scrutinize the reports about the two dozen deaths. The newspaper said that the inquiry had determined that Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, a squad leader present when the bomb exploded, made a false statement when he reported that the bombing had killed 15 civilians. An intelligence unit that visited the site the day of the bombing also failed to highlight that the civilians had gunshot wounds, the newspaper reported. In Baghdad, senior governmental officials began speaking of the possibility of an Iraqi investigation into the killings as well. “We in the ministers’ Cabinet condemned this crime and demanded that coalition forces show the reasons behind this massacre,” Iraqi deputy prime minister Salam al-Zaubai, one of the most powerful Sunni Arabs in the new government, said in an interview. “As you know, this is not the only massacre, and there are a lot,” he said. “The coalition forces must change their behavior. Human blood should be sacred regardless of religion, party and nationality.” Al-Zaubai, also the acting defense minister, acknowledged that Iraqi officials would probably not be able to force the extradition of any troops suspected of culpability in the Haditha killings. But he said a committee of five ministers – including ministers of defense, interior and finance – would probe the killings with the expectation that American officials will turn over their investigative files. “We do not have the security file because it is in the hands of the coalition forces,” he said. “We hope there will not be obstacles ahead.” The crisis over Haditha and other disputed killings in Sunni areas comes just as it appears that military operations may be needed to retake some Sunni areas at risk of falling to the insurgency. This week American forces ordered 1,500 troops from Kuwait into Anbar Province, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency, in the latest sign that insurgents and terror groups, including those led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, control much of the sprawling desert region. In interviews Thursday, two senior Republicans – Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is next in line to be committee chairman – both said it was too soon to tell whether the episode would undermine support for the war. Still, both expressed concern. Warner, who has promised to hold hearings as soon as the military completes its investigation, said he has been urging Rumsfeld to wrap up the probe as swiftly as possible. “In the interim, frankly, the public opinion on this matter is being influenced by misinformation, leaks and undocumented and uncorroborated `facts,”‘ he said. McCain said the incident harkened back to the My Lai massacre during the war in Vietnam. He added, “It certainly is harmful, but I can’t assess the extent of the damage.” Neither McCain nor Warner would say whether the defense secretary should be called as a witness. “I think it depends on what we find out,” McCain said. “I can’t say until we really know what happened. There are allegations, and I emphasize allegations, that there was a cover-up. If so, then obviously more senior people would have to be the subject of hearings.” In addition to the Haditha killings, military criminal investigators are probing the death of an Iraqi man in Hamandiya, west of Baghdad, who was killed by American Marines on April 26. Military prosecutors plan to file murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman in the killing, according to a defense lawyer in the case who was quoted by The Associated Press. On Wednesday, American troops near the restive city of Samarra shot and killed two Iraqi women, including one who may have been pregnant and on her way to the hospital, after their car did not heed what American military officials said were repeated warnings to stop and signs that marked a prohibited area near an American outpost. At a news conference in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the senior American military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, said that allegations of wrongdoing in Haditha and elsewhere were being thoroughly investigated and that anyone found guilty of violations would be punished. “This tragic incident is in no way representative of how coalition forces treat Iraqi civilians,” he said. In Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the top American ground commander in Iraq, ordered that all 150,000 U.S. and allied troops in the country receive mandatory refresher training on “legal, moral and ethical standards on the battlefield.” In a written statement, Chiarelli did not specifically cite the civilian deaths in Haditha as the reason for the unusual order. But he said that commanders would be provided with training materials and sample vignettes to use in instruction on professional military values and conduct in combat, as well as Iraqi cultural sensitivities.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!