by Luis Martinez, ABC News
After an investigation that's lasted more than a year, criminal charges will be filed today in the alleged Haditha massacre in which 24 civilians in an Iraqi town were killed.
A news conference has been scheduled for this afternoon at the large Marine base, Camp Pendleton in California, to announce the criminal charges that range from dereliction of duty to murder.
Military sources told ABC News that at least eight Marines will face criminal charges in connection with the alleged murder of the civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha, on Nov. 19, 2005.
The most serious charges are expected to be filed against five Marines who were on the scene of the killings, including squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich.
The sources would not specify what charges the Marines would face, but they are expected to include either murder or manslaughter.
Three Marine officers who were not on the scene at the time of the killings will also be charged, according to sources familiar with the case.
The most likely charge for officers up the chain of command, sources said, is dereliction of duty, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.
The Haditha killings happened after a roadside bomb hit a Marine convoy, killing Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.
After the bomb exploded, the Marines allegedly killed five unarmed men in a nearby vehicle and then raided a nearby cluster of houses, killing a total of 24 civilians, including 15 women and children. Although the killings in Haditha took place in November 2005, the details were not made public until Time magazine broke the story in March 2006.
Until then, the military had said that 15 civilians had been killed by a roadside bomb planted by insurgents.
Military officials later acknowledged that the death toll was higher, and that none of the civilians were killed by the roadside bomb.
In addition to the criminal charges, the military has conducted an extensive investigation into whether there was a .
The sources said it was still unclear when the full results of that investigation would be made public.