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Highest ranking Marine charged in deaths of Haditha civilians forced into retirement

SAN DIEGO - The highest-ranking of eight Camp Pendleton Marines charged in the deaths of two dozen civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005 has been forced into retirement, it was reported today.

Last month, the secretary of the Navy upheld a ruling by a Camp Pendleton Board of Inquiry, which found Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani was not guilty of misconduct but had shown ''substandard'' performance and should be forced to retire, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Board of Inquiry was convened after a military appeals court upheld a trial judge's ruling to dismiss criminal charges against Chessani because of the appearance of undue command influence, the newspaper reported.

Chessani was the commander of a Marine regiment on Nov. 19, 2005, when troops killed 24 civilians while searching for insurgents who planted a roadside bomb that killed a fellow Marine.

Chessani -- who was not at the scene and did not give the order to kill the civilians -- was charged with failure to conduct a thorough investigation.

The leader of the squadron, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, faces a possible court- martial in September. All other Marines charged in the case have been exonerated or had the charges dropped.


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