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An Internet video released this week which claims to be classified U.S. military footage from an Apache helicopter “depicting the indiscriminate slaying” of civilians — including two Reuters news staff — is itself coming under intense scrutiny after the Army released records of its 2007 investigation into the Baghdad, Iraq attack.
The video, entitled “Collateral Murder“, was posted on a website called WikiLeaks, which has a mission of exposing injustices around the world by encouraging publication of top-secret content. The website appears to have the support of such prestigious news organizations as The Associated Press, Gannett Co., and E.W. Scripps, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Bravo Company 2-16 Infantry was responsible for clearing their sector and looking for weapons caches. According to U.S. Army investigation documents released on April 5, 2010, the company “had been under sporadic small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire” since the operation was launched at dawn.
Two Apache helicopters — call signs “Crazyhorse 18″ and “Crazyhorse 19″ — were subsequently dispatched to provide air support to the ground maneuver force coming under fire from armed insurgents while executing their mission.
“(We) spotted approximately 10-15 Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF) with weapons preparing to engage the friendly forces,” one of the Apache helicopter pilots said in a sworn statement.
The insurgents were observed with AK-47′s and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) launchers.
“One AIF was leaning around a corner with an RPG preparing to engage friendly forces,” the pilot stated and said he initiated a request to fire upon the target with about 200 rounds of 30mm firepower.
The video posted by WikiLeaks shows the helicopter orbiting in the air, with several persons walking in the center of the square, including one person with an object slung over his shoulder. Shortly after, a man is seen crouched near an alley way with an object aimed at the Apache.
The site maintains that the video “clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers,” as well as the wounding of two young children.
According to a preliminary police report obtained by Reuters news organization and published on July 12, 2007, the civilians had been killed by a “random American bombardment.”
A witness statement in the police report claims “the aircraft began striking randomly and people were wounded.”
For their part, the military has acknowledged that the two Reuters employees were killed and Iraqi children were injured as a result of the engagement by American forces with the insurgents.
“One of the cameramen is seen peering from behind the wall looking west toward the approaching Bravo Company soldiers,” an Investigating Officer says in an Army memorandum. “The voice on the (Apache) gun tape mistakenly identifies the long telephoto lens as an RPG.”
Critics of the WikiLeaks video say it doesn’t take into consideration the events on the ground prior to the filmed attack, and has the advantage of being edited and analyzed in a non-combat situation.
The Army investigation concludes by noting that Iraqi insurgents frequently embedded photographers during attacks to produce propaganda recruiting footage.
“The presence of the Reuters employees was not known to any of the US Forces operating in the area that morning,” the memorandum suggests. “The cameramen made no effort to visibly display their status as press or media representatives and their familiar behavior with, and close proximity to, the armed insurgents and their furtive attempts to photograph the Coalition Ground Forces made them appear as hostile combatants to the Apaches that engaged them.”
WATCH “COLLATERAL MURDER:”
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