US Marines open rare 'court of inquiry' into Afghanistan shooting

For the first time in more than 50 years, the US Marine Corps launched a special tribunal Monday to publicly investigate allegations a newly formed special forces unit killed as many as 19 Afghan civilians in March after their convoy was rammed by a car bomb. Many details - including the exact number of civilians killed and injured - remain in dispute, despite the attention the case has attracted in Afghanistan and inside the US military. That makes the rarely used "court of inquiry" an ideal venue for a public investigation, said former military attorney Scott Silliman, now a law professor at Duke University. "I think they are very much aware of the fact that questions of accountability are very much on the public's mind," he said. The administrative fact-finding hearing will focus on the actions of two officers: Maj. Fred C. Galvin, commander of the 120-person unit, and platoon leader Capt. Vincent J. Noble. At the end of the inquiry, which is scheduled to last two weeks, the panel will recommend whether the officers should be charged with a crime.