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The FBI is investigating threats against 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, the Marine charged with premeditated murder in the killing of two Iraqi insurgents last April.
A website, using an address nearly identical to one launched by the officer’s family, posted photographs depicting Pantano beheaded by a hooded jihadist, according to the officer’s lawyer, Charles Gittins.
Other photographs on the hostile site, defendthedefender.org, have been edited to depict Pantano in an electric chair.
Pantano took the threats seriously and reported them to local law enforcement and the FBI in Wilmington, N.C., where he lives with his wife and two children, the Washington Times reported.
Retired Marines are providing a security watch at the family’s home as Pantano awaits a March hearing.
Capt. Larry Hines of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in Wilmington confirmed to WorldNetDaily an investigation regarding the website is under way, but he has not come to any conclusions yet. Hines also confirmed the FBI is probing the threat.
Gittins told the Times he believes the hostile site was created in Pakistan and said cyberattacks earlier this week from the Middle East country shut down the website created for Pantano’s defense by his mother, Merry K. Pantano.
Mrs. Pantano told WND her son is upset that his case “has gone this far.”
“Not only is it putting troops in danger in the field — which he was more concerned about than his own welfare — now he has to worry about the threat to his own family and children, for the rest of his life,” she said.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Pantano’s quick-reaction platoon, operating in the Sunni Triangle, detained the Iraqis April 15, 2004, after securing a terrorist hideaway where the Marines found a weapons cache. Pantano contends the Iraqis disobeyed his order in Arabic to stop, prompting him to open fire on them.
A spokesman for the Marine Corps Second Division command at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where Pantano is based, says he understands the outrage over the case but urges Americans to have confidence in the military justice system.
Gittins, however, says his client, who was cleared of wrongdoing by his superiors on the field and served another three months in combat, “feels like he’s been betrayed.”
The lawyer said a witness largely corroborates the officer’s version of events.
An embedded Time magazine reporter provided a gripping, up-close account of a dangerous operation on the outskirts of Fallujah led by Pantano just nine days after the April 15 incident. The story, published May 10, showed Pantano’s opposition to the high-level decision to pull back from a planned onslaught of the terrorist-stronghold.