In 2007, two Reuters employees — photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh — were killed by a U.S. helicopter strike in Baghdad. The U.S. military’s official response to the killings argued that the attack occurred after security forces came under fire from men accompanying the reporters, and that the rules of engagement were followed in returning fire. Skeptical of the military’s claim, Reuters filed a Freedom of Information Act request for video of the killings, but was unable to get the videos from the military.
However, Wikileaks obtained the video from an unnamed military source, and released it this morning. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. None of the members of the group were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon's initial cover story; they were milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was and is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad.
Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured.
In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills.
"Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards," says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.
A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: "Come on, let us shoot!"
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Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.
And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: "Well, it's their fault bringing their kids to a battle."
The video makes it clear: the military’s official response to the events is inaccurate and that it has not been telling the truth when it claims that the Apache attack “occurred after security forces came under fire.” Also clear is the fact that the Apache pilots in question violated the 2007 U.S. Rules of Engagement for Iraq, which permit the use of “deadly force” only against individuals who “pose a threat to Coalition Forces by committing a hostile act or demonstrating hostile intent.”
See for yourself (warning – violent imagery):
"Collateral damage" happens in wartime. This particular incident didn't have to happen. From the audio, you can tell that the Apache pilots had "kill fever", certainly with respect to the van (containing children) which came to the rescue of the wounded Reuters photographer. And the military's official response that American forces were under threat is, quite simply, a cover-up.
It's not a one-off event. This kind of thing happened all the time, and continues to happen in Afghanistan.