A NORTHERN Ireland legal firm planning to sue the US for $15m on behalf of an Iraqi family who lost four members at a checkpoint shooting, has accused US military leaders of being “dismissive and misleading”.

Ritchie McRitchie, a solicitor with Madden and Finucane, said the US army was officially investigating the shootings but had not interviewed any witnesses or examined the scene.

Mr McRitchie travelled to Iraq last month to investigate the shootings along with two other solicitors from the firm.

He said that Madden and Finucane were in consultation with a number of US lawyers and examining how to begin legal action in the US.

Two organisations working in Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness and Occupation Watch, are helping to co-ordinate visits with families and discussions with eyewitnesses.

“The reaction of the US was dismissive. One captain said that the incident was under investigation but the army hasn’t even examined the scene or spoken to any witnesses. To say there has been an investigation is misleading to say the least,” Mr McRitchie said.

He added that the US military have yet to offer any explanation for their actions.

Haded abd al-Kerim, a 13-year-old girl, was shot dead by US troops along with her father and two older siblings on August 7 last.

They had been travelling towards a US military checkpoint that Mr McRitchie claimed was not identifiable.

Another person in a car in front of them was shot dead and two people were arrested.

Mr McRitchie said that Madden and Finucane had not been allowed to order a forensic examination of the first car but said photographs indicated that the handbrake had been applied as the car reached the checkpoint.

“Witnesses describe an initial car being shot at. One (person in the car) is dead and two are in custody, so we haven’t been able to speak to them. It appears they didn’t see it until too late,” he said.

Pentagon spokesman Major Michael Shavers said yesterday that it was too early to comment on the case and the US Defence Department had yet to receive any legal papers from Madden and Finucane.

“Generally we don’t have comments on ongoing cases like this, and it’s way too premature to comment on a case we haven’t seen yet,” he said.