Charges are expected to be announced Thursday against a group of U.S. Marines in connection with the murders of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha last November. 

Investigators have been probing allegations that the Marines murdered the civilians after one of their own was killed by a roadside bomb.  The dead include several women and children.

Defense lawyers say the civilians were killed as they were caught up in a firefight between the Marines and Iraqi insurgents.  Marine officials initially attributed 15 civilian deaths to the bombing and an ensuing gunbattle with insurgents.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that at least five Marines will face charges ranging from negligent homicide to murder.

One of the Marines who could be charged is Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who led the squad involved in the Haditha incident.  A lawyer for another Marine, Captain Lucas McConnell, said earlier this week his client will likely be charged with dereliction of duty.

According to The New York Times, the lawyer says prosecutors will argue that McConnell had provided his men with insufficient training on when lethal force can be used.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.