US Marine faces lesser charges in Haditha killings

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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the accused leader in the 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, will face voluntary manslaughter charges but not more serious murder charges, the U.S. Marines said on Monday.

"The charges referred against SSgt Wuterich are voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice," Camp Pendleton, California, said in a statement.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central, "dismissed the charges of unpremeditated murder, soliciting another to commit an offense and false official statement," the statement said.

Eight Marines were originally charged in the case, in which U.S. Marines killed 24 men, women and children after their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb that destroyed a Humvee and killed a popular comrade.

Since then, charges against two officers and two enlisted men have been dismissed. Two have been ordered to court-martial and the Marines announced on Monday the cases against Wuterich and an officer would proceed. (Reporting by Adam Tanner, editing by Doina Chiacu)