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Video released of Iraq Apache attack

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 06 April 2010

A video has been released of a classified US Military video of an attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which two Reuters journalists and Iraqis were killed.

US military video released by WikiLeaks (Reuters)

The video, which is filmed from an American Apache helicopter cockpit, was encrypted by investigative news organisation WikiLeaks.

The black-and-white video shows US Apache helicopters in a Baghdad suburb, opening fire on a group of men, including two men identified by WikiLeaks as Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.

The helicopter then fires on a van as those on board try to flee. The video also shows ground troops carrying two injured children from the van. According to WikiLeaks 12 people died during the gunfire.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Monday: "The material was encrypted with a code and we broke the code.

"The military encrypted this so they could exchange this between themselves on unclassified networks."

"This Apache helicopter was firing 30mm cannon shells, normally used for armored PC operations and you can see, these zoom lenses are quite extraordinary and the behaviour of the pilots is like they're playing a computer game and their desire  appears to be that they want to get high scores on that computer game."

Reuters news editor-in-chief David Schlesinger released a statement saying: "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. 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."

Reuters asked the US military in 2007 to conduct a full investigation into the killings of Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh in Iraq after evidence emerged casting doubt over the explanations given into their deaths.

Witnesses told Reuters that they had seen no gunmen in the area and were not aware of any clashes leading up to the Apache helicopter attack. Reuters management were shown the video by the US military and asked for it to be made public. It never was.

The US Department of Defence released a statement in response to the WikiLeaks video release saying: "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 response to a FOIA request, twelve documents supporting this investigation were provided to Reuters in 2009. These documents include photos showing the presence of weapons on the scene, including AK-47s and an RPG 7. During the course of the engagement, the Apache crew mistook one of the Reuters photographer's camera to be another RPG. 

We regret the loss of innocent life, but this incident was promptly investigated, and there was never any attempt to cover up any aspects of this engagement."

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