Monday, 5 April 2010
Website 'shows video of US attack'
One of the internet's biggest sources of classified government information has released video of what it says is a US helicopter firing at civilians in Iraq.
WikiLeaks, a website that publishes anonymously sourced documents, released what it called previously unseen footage on Monday.
It said the footage filmed from a helicopter cockpit shows a missile strike on a crowded square in a Baghdad neighbourhood in July 2007.
The website said 12 civilians were killed in the attack, including two journalists, Namir Nour El Deen and Saeed Chmagh, who worked for the Reuters news agency.
The two men appear to survive the first strike and attempt to get away, but the helicopter returns a second and third time.
There was no immediate comment from the US military on the video.
Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said Pentagon officials seemed "completely surprised" when informed of the release of the tape, and appeared not to have heard about the footage beforehand.
"So far we still haven't gotten [a response]. No response to what's on the tape and no confirmation that this is in fact a military tape," she said.
But Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks.org, said there is strong evidence to suggest that the video is genuine.
"There was a Washington Post reporter who was with that US military unit on the ground on that day," Assange told Al Jazeera, referring to David Finkel, a journalist who was embedded with the US military in July 2007.
"He wrote a chapter in a book, which was published last year, called The Good Soldiers, which correlates directly to the material in that video.
"Also, Reuters conducted a number of investigations and interviewed two ground witnesses at the time.
"That story wasn't really taken seriously, [with] nothing to back up the witnesses, but now we have the video that shows that those witnesses were correct."
WikiLeaks set up a separate website with detailed information on the video, which it said it obtained from a number of "military whistleblowers".
"WikiLeaks goes to great lengths to verify the authenticity of the information it receives," the website read.
"We have analyzed the information about this incident from a variety of source material. We have spoken to witnesses and journalists directly involved in the incident."
In the video, a voice can be heard saying there has been a shooting in the area. The unidentified person later receives permission to open fire.
Following the shooting, the footage shows troops carrying two injured children, as another unidentified person asks for permission to take the wounded out of the area.
A voice responds, saying, "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."
Our correspondent said the military had released a statement at the time of the attack saying they had positively identified weapons and militants in the strike.
"It's important to point out that at the time of this incident, the military was very specific," she said.
"They said that the children were injured by shrapnel and the people who were killed were identified positively as militants who had put the security of Iraq at risk and that they had ... weapons.
"The commanders at the time said that they really regretted that children were wounded in this and said that they had taken every step possible to make sure that innocent lives were spared."
Nabil Nour El Deen, the brother of the Reuters photographer killed in the shooting, condemned the attack as a "crime" committed by the US military.
"Is this the democracy and freedom that they claim they have brought to Iraq?
"What Namir was doing was a patriotic work. He was trying to cover the violations of the Americans against the Iraqi people," he told Al Jazeera.
"We demand the international organisations to help us sue those people responsible for the killings of our sons and our people."
Fucking bastards. They slaughter innocents and make fun of this as some kind of fucking game. I hope these motherfuckers in that plane of death get burned alive and suffer for the rest of their lives.