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Wikileaks releases video depicting US forces killing of two Reuters journalists in Iraq

Wikileaks, a nonprofit website, has released video from 'military whistleblowers' that appears to depict the 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists and nine other Iraqis. The US military had said at the time they were 'hostile' forces.

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''There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,'' Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a military spokesman in Baghdad, told the New York Times on the day of the incident.

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Rundown of key events depicted in video

The video released today shows something quite different. A group of about 15-20 Iraqi men on a dusty street, chatting and walking along, apparently unaware of the helicopters watching them – or, at least, unconcerned. One of the Americans in the helicopter says "that's a weapon" while his cross-hairs focuses on a man WikiLeaks identifies as Mr. Noor-Eldeen, who has what appears to be a professional camera slung over his right shoulder.

Some of the other men in the group are carrying what could be assault rifles. After the helicopter circles the block, it comes on the same group again, who appear to be sharing cigarettes and chatting in front of a house in a tight cluster of about 11, with at least one man on his cell phone. A voice on one of the helicopters asks for permission to engage and also says he sees a man with an RPG, which cannot be confirmed by watching the video.

Permission is given, a voice says "light them all up," and the helicopter opens up on the group with its machine gun – apparently killing all but two of the men. One unarmed man who escaped the first salvo and ran across the street into an empty lot is also tracked and killed.

WikiLeaks identified the second unarmed survivor as Mr. Chmagh, who runs along a row of houses until he too, is shot, and lies writhing on the ground – apparently unable to get up. The helicopter keeps its cross-hairs on the injured man while one of the US soldiers jokingly pleads over his radio "all you have to do is pickup up a weapon" – which would have allowed him to finish the man off under US rules of engagement at the time. There is no weapon visible.

Shortly thereafter, a minivan pulls up alongside the injured Iraqi. From aboard the US helicopter, a soldier asks, "Can I shoot?" and is then heard requesting "permission to engage?" At that point, another voice – presumably an officer not on scene – asks if the van is "picking up the wounded" and is told that they are. Two Iraqis from the van carry the wounded man around the side of the van to load him inside.

An American voice with the call sign "Bushmaster 7" says, "Roger, engage." One of the helicopters blankets the van with machine-gun fire. The two Iraqis who were loading the wounded man inside scattered, but are quickly cut down as they try to flee.

"Oh yeah, right through the windshield," says one of the soldiers, while another voice on board briefly laughs. "There were approximately four to five individuals in that truck, so I'm counting about 12-15" casualties."

As far as can be seen from the video, there were no weapons carried by the men who came out of the van or in the vicinity of the van when the helicopter opened fire.

(The video, which is extremely graphic and contains uncensored language, can be seen here.)


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