WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is reviewing a video posted on the Internet of a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff, and could reopen an investigation into the incident, a military official said on Wednesday.
A preliminary review of the classified video, which was made public on Monday by a group that promotes leaking to fight government and corporate corruption, is being conducted by lawyers at the U.S. military’s Central Command, the military official said on condition of anonymity. Central Command oversees the war in Iraq.
“We’re looking at a reinvestigation because of a question of the rules of engagement. Were all the actions that are depicted on that video in parallel with the rules of engagement in effect at the time?” the military official said.
The lawyers would then make recommendations to military commanders, which could lead to the reopening of the investigation, the official said.
“We’re trying to figure out if that is warranted,” the official said of a possible reinvestigation, adding that it was unclear whether a new probe could be led by Central Command or the Army. “It certainly is possible.”
The stark helicopter gunsight video of the July 12, 2007, attack has been widely viewed around the world on the Internet since its release by the group WikiLeaks.
The video includes an audio track of conversation between the helicopter crew and many who have seen it have been shocked at the images and at some of the fliers’ comments. WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange said on Monday the fliers act “like they are playing a computer game and their desire is they want to get high scores” by killing opponents.
The two Reuters staff killed in the attack were photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40.
David Schlesinger, Reuters’ editor-in-chief, said on Wednesday, “I would welcome a thorough new investigation. Reuters from the start has called for transparency and an objective inquiry so that all can learn lessons from this tragedy.”
The video shows an aerial view of a group of men moving about a square in a Baghdad neighborhood. The fliers identified some of the men as armed.
The gunsight tracks two of the men, identified by WikiLeaks as the Reuters news staff, as the fliers identify their cameras as weapons.
The U.S. military has said an investigation of the incident shortly after it occurred found that U.S. forces were not aware of the presence of the news staffers and thought they were engaging armed insurgents, mistaking a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
WikiLeaks said it obtained the video from military whistleblowers and had been able to view and investigate it after breaking the encryption code. WikiLeaks posted the video at www.collateralmurder.com.
Major John Redfield, a Central Command spokesman, said on Wednesday that neither Central Command based in Tampa, Florida, nor U.S. forces in Iraq “have a copy of that video” but added: “We’re not disputing the authenticity of it.”
Amnesty International called on Wednesday for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the incident shown in the video.
“This highly disturbing video appears to show that after the initial attack, U.S. troops opened fire on people seeking to assist a wounded man, injuring two children, and killing several more people,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, in a statement.
U.S. authorities “must disclose any further information or footage that will shed light on this (incident) and they must conduct a proper investigation to determine whether U.S. forces adhered to the rules of international humanitarian law and took necessary precautions to spare civilians,” he said.
Editing by Frances Kerry
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