'Ha ha I hit them.... look at those dead bastards'
THE US military faced demands for an inquiry yesterday after the leak of a video showing an American helicopter attack on innocent Iraqi civilians.
The footage of the assault on a Baghdad square in 2007 was published on the internet in defiance of Pentagon attempts to keep it secret.
Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, two cameramen for the Reuters news agency, were among 15 people killed in the attacks. Victims included a group of men who attempted to rescue the injured at the scene. Two Apache helicopter gunships targeted and then opened fire in the belief the group was carrying arms.
The video, published by the website Wikileaks, included a transcript of the crews of helicopters seeking permission to open fire and then assessing the effects of the shooting. Members of the crew are heard to say "Come on, let us fire'' followed by exhortations such as "light 'em up!" and "keep shooting, keep shooting". A crewman goes on to say "Ha, ha, ha -- I hit 'em", followed by a second who said: "Look at those dead bastards".
In one sequence two children can be seen at the window of a van that was later attacked. An American patrol that arrived after the attack is seen carrying the injured children to an Iraqi police checkpoint after permission was refused to airlift them to an American base. The pilots were unapologetic: "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," said one.
Wikileaks has been investigated by the Pentagon for endangering national security.
The organisation has secured the assistance of Icelandic television after the island state vowed to protect people involved in leaking official information. The Pentagon acknowledged the authenticity of the video, but a spokesman insisted that it did not contradict the official finding that the helicopters' crews acted within the rules of engagement. He said an inquiry backed the assessment that the group was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade.
"We had insurgents and reporters in an area where US forces were about to be ambushed," he said. "At the time we weren't able to discern whether (the Reuters employees) were carrying cameras or weapons."
Mr Noor-Eldeen's father said the footage vindicated the family's calls for those involved to face charges. Noor Eldeen said: "If such an attack took place in America, what would they do?"
The Iraqi Journalists' Union yesterday called for an investigation, saying the footage was evidence of a crime. (© Daily Telegraph, London)