The group Wikileaks has released a video that it describes as showing “the indiscriminate slaying” by U.S. troops “of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad,” including two Reuters employees.
The graphic and disturbing video, which a senior military official told the AP is authentic, shows 17 minutes of footage taken from the air. In it, US helicopters fire on a group of men after concluding that several of them are holding weapons.
But the men appear to be merely walking down the street, not exhibiting any kind of hostile intent toward the helicopters. At the time, the military said that “There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force.”
Wikileaks says the video was provided by a “number of military whistleblowers.”
In the video, after an initial round of firing, one voice is heard saying, “Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.” Another responds, “Nice.”
Later, when a van approaches the area and men get out and begin to collect the bodies, the helicopters fire again. Two wounded children were later found in the van.
The men who were killed included Reuters photographer and Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh. (More on them here.)
A spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command told TPMmuckraker this afternoon that the military is currently working on a statement on the video.
Reuters in 2007 filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the video, but it was not released.
Here is the video, which contains graphic content:
Reuters released this statement:
“The deaths of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh three years ago were tragic and emblematic of the extreme dangers that exist in covering war zones. We continue to work for journalist safety and call on all involved parties to recognise the important work that journalists do and the extreme danger that photographers and video journalists face in particular,” said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters news. “The video released today via Wikileaks is graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result.”
At least one skeptic of the video has emerged — Bill Roggio of the Weekly Standard. He argues today that the men who were killed by the helicopters may have attacked American soldiers before the video footage begins.
Late Update: A spokesman for the military sends along this statement:
“We are aware that several media outlets are airing footage depicting gunfire from a U.S. helicopter and claiming that this footage was recorded during an incident in 2007 in which two Reuters reporters were killed. At this time, we are working to verify the source of the video, its veracity, and when or where it was recorded. The incident presumably associated with this video was investigated in 2007, and the releasable portions of that investigation are available at the following URL.”