New York, April 5, 2010—Disturbing video footage showing a 2007 U.S. military airstrike that killed about a dozen Iraqis in eastern Baghdad, including a Reuters cameraman and assistant, was released today by WikiLeaks, a Web site that publishes sensitive leaked documents. The video raises questions about the actions of U.S. military forces and the thoroughness and transparency of the investigation that followed, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
WikiLeaks said that it had "obtained the video as well as supporting documents from a number of military whistleblowers" and verified its authenticity in conversations with "witnesses and journalists directly involved in the incident." A U.S. defense official confirmed that the video, which included audio of U.S. forces involved in the strike, was authentic, Reuters reported. Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant, Saeed Chmagh, 40, were killed in the strike.
“This footage is deeply disturbing and reminds us of what journalists in war zones undergo to bring us the news,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “The video also confirms our long-held view that a thorough and transparent investigation into this incident is urgently needed.”
The video, taken from a U.S. Apache helicopter, shows several men moving about a Baghdad neighborhood. Military forces identify some of the men as armed and open fire, the video shows. Minutes later, a van arrives and appears to assist the wounded. The video shows the helicopter then opening fire on the van. Two children were injured, the footage shows.
Reuters has pressed U.S. military officials to conduct a thorough and objective investigation into the airstrike. In a statement today, military spokesman Maj. Shawn S. Turner said: “This tragic incident was investigated at that time by the brigade involved and the investigation found that the forces involved were not aware of the presence of the two reporters, and that all evidence available supported the conclusion by those forces that they were engaging armed insurgents, and not civilians.”
In all, at least 16 journalists were killed by U.S. forces’ fire in Iraq, CPJ research shows. While CPJ has not found evidence to conclude that U.S. troops targeted journalists in these cases, its research shows that most of the cases were either not fully investigated or the military failed to publicly disclose its findings.
“The deaths of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh three years ago were tragic and emblematic of the extreme dangers that exist in covering war zones,” said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters news. "We continue to work for journalist safety and call on all involved parties to recognize the important work that journalists do and the extreme danger that photographers and video journalists face in particular. The video released today via Wikileaks is graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result.”