The Iraqi Journalists' Union on Tuesday called on the Iraqi government to investigate the apparent killing of two Reuters employees by U.S. Apache helicopters after a Web site posted classified American military video footage of the shooting.
The Iraqi Journalists’ Union on Tuesday called on the Iraqi government to investigate the apparent killing of two Reuters employees by U.S. Apache helicopters after a Web site posted classified American military video footage of the shooting.
The July 12, 2007, incident has been reported before, but the graphic video reignited anger over the U.S. killing of civilians at the height of violence in Iraq.
“This is another crime added to the crimes of the U.S. forces against Iraqi journalists and civilians,” the head of the journalists’ union Mouyyad al-Lami said. “I call upon the government to take a firm stance against the criminals who killed the journalists.”
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh could not immediately be reached for comment.
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The Web site Wikileaks.org on Monday posted the video shot from one of the two Apache helicopters involved in the attack in the New Baghdad district of the capital.
The clear black and white film, which runs about 38 minutes in full, shows the helicopters locating a group of about a dozen men moving down a road, some of whom the aviators say are believed to be carrying weapons. After being told they are “free to engage,” the gunships attack the group, apparently killing most of the men, then also destroy a van after more people show up and attempt to evacuate one of the wounded.
Among those believed to have been killed in that attack was Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children also were wounded. The aviators say on the tape that they believe that they killed 12 to 15 people in total.
The U.S. military said Monday that it was “working to verify the source of the video, its veracity, and when or where it was recorded.” Spokesman Capt. Jay Ostrich said Tuesday there was nothing further to add to the previous statement.
A senior U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the video, confirmed that the footage was authentic but said the military could not confirm the identities of the Reuters employees in the film.
Reuters said it couldn’t verify that the video was of its employees dying, even though it looks like one of the men killed had a camera slung over his shoulder.
The video provides a rare, disturbing close-up of modern urban warfare at a time when violence was near its peak in Baghdad and the U.S. death toll was mounting. The soldiers flying attack helicopters had been called in to assist ground troops in the area who were pinned down by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
In redacted copies of portions of its earlier inquiry into the July 2007 incident, the military said U.S. troops acted appropriately. Reuters employees were likely “intermixed among the insurgents” and difficult to distinguish because of their equipment, the document states.
But the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the video shows a deeper investigation is needed.
“The gruesome qualities of the video are plain to see – beyond that this really confirms what we’ve said all along: that a transparent investigation of this incident hasn’t taken place and needs to,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s program coordinator for the Mideast, in a telephone interview.
According to the organization’s research, at least 16 journalists have been killed by U.S. forces in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
Though the organization has found no evidence journalists were intentionally targeted, the organization’s research has shown the investigation of all such incidents “failed on one or both of two fronts,” Dayem said.
“Either the investigations were incomplete or the findings weren’t made public and if the findings aren’t made public, you can’t determine whether an investigation has been thorough.”
In all, CPJ found that at least 190 journalists and media support workers have been killed in the conflict – many targeted by insurgents or caught in the bombings and other violence that has plagued the country.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said 221 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the invasion by its tally.
Spokesman Benoit Hervieu said the organization had called for a deeper investigation at the time of the 2007 incident, and the video showed it was still needed.