updated 9/19/2007 12:52:57 AM ET 2007-09-19T04:52:57

Charges have been dropped against a captain who was accused of failing to investigate the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha, the Marine Corps said Tuesday.

Capt. Lucas M. McConnell was granted immunity and ordered to cooperate with officials looking into the November 2005 killings, the Marines said in a news release.

Charges have now been dismissed against four of the eight Marines who were initially charged in the incident. A battalion commander has been recommended for a court-martial; a final decision is pending.

The killings occurred after a military convoy was hit by a roadside bomb that killed a Marine driver. Members of a Marine squad allegedly shot five men by a car, then killed 19 others as they cleared several houses in hopes of finding whoever set off the bomb.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis dismissed dereliction of duty charges against McConnell on Sept. 12. and determined that “administrative measures” were an appropriate punishment, the Marines said.

McConnell’s attorney, Kevin McDermott, said his client was prepared to testify and had not asked for a quid pro quo grant of immunity.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” McDermott said. He said discussions about dropping the charges against his client began last July, once evidence including military message traffic and surveillance video began to surface.

The criminal case is the biggest to have emerged against U.S. forces for actions in Iraq.

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