Wikileaks today released a classified video showing what appears to be on the face of it a war crime committed in Iraq.
The video shows the gunner of an Apache helicopter kill around a dozen people, which were mistaken for insurgents. Two of them were Reuters journalists – a camera with a large zoom lens carried by Reuters war photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen was mistaken to be a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Unarmed civilians who were following the Reuters staff were categorised as armed insurgents and slaughtered.
Thin air was seen to be AK47 assault rifles.
A van arriving at the scene to rescue the only survivor of the initial attack Saeed Chmagh, a Reuters driver and assistant to Mr. Noor-Eldeen, was destroyed. The crew of the Apache gunship stated the van approached to retrieve bodies and AK47s.
Weapons were nowhere to be seen, as the video clearly shows – however, two children sitting in the van were easy to spot. Mr. Chmagh and his rescuer, Saleh Matasher Tomal were killed, the two children were later on rescued by ground forces. Medical help was delayed, as the injured children were given to Iraqi police which had yet to arrive to be brought to an Iraqi hospital, instead of being airlifted to a US medical base.
The killing was in clear violation of the US Army’s Rules of Engagement (ROE), which state person committing hostile acts may be engaged, yet only until “the individual is injured and no longer a threat.” This applied to Mr. Chmagh. His rescuer Mr. Tomal neither committed a hostile act nor did he display hostile intent. However the investigation by the US military states action was in line with the ROE.
US military stated it had killed nine insurgents and two journalists during combat operations against a hostile force. No hostile forces can be seen in the video, apart from the US military itself.
Reuters tried to obtain the video under the Freedom of Information Act, yet to no avail. The video was leaked to Wikileaks in January and was decrypted. Wikileaks staff in Iceland were observed and questioned last week by Icelandic police and two US agents working for the State Department in what can be understood to have been an attempt to discern what incident the video portrayed.
Wikileaks has already been targeted by US intelligence services as leaks by whistle blowers is seen to undermine US foreign policy and the validity of official reports.
Wikileaks has set up a website under the URL www.collateralmurder.com where an edited version on the video can be seen. The unedited, raw footage has also been released. The Rules of Engagement (ROE) can also be downloaded and viewed.