Pentagon Cites Weapons Found At Scene Of Killings In Iraq Video

Update at 8 a.m., April 6:

An investigation into the 2007 killing in Baghdad of 12 civilians — including two employed by the Reuters news agency — by soldiers firing from a U.S. Army helicopter revealed that there were some weapons with the group, NPR's Tom Bowman reported today on Morning Edition. Investigators said there was an assault rifle, rocket propelled grenades and an RPG launcher, Tom says.

But a video of the incident, which was leaked yesterday, still shows the "horrific" nature of war and the danger to civilians, Tom adds. At one point, a van that turned out to have at least two children inside was fired on by the helicopter crew.

Here is the discussion Tom had earlier with ME host Renee Montagne:

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Update at 12:12 p.m. ET. The New York Times writes that:

"Late Monday, the United States Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released the redacted report on the case, which provided some more detail.

"The report showed pictures of what it said were machine guns and grenades found near the bodies of those killed. It also stated that the Reuters employees 'made no effort to visibly display their status as press or media representatives and their familiar behavior with, and close proximity to, the armed insurgents and their furtive attempts to photograph the coalition ground forces made them appear as hostile combatants to the Apaches that engaged them.' "

Update at 4:15 p.m. ET. "Reporter: Hard To See How Tragedy On Leaked Video Could Have Been Avoided."

Our original post — "Video Of Errant U.S. Shootings Of Iraqis, Newsmen Made Public":

Chilling classified video of a 2007 collateral damage incident in which U.S. Army Apache helicopter crews apparently mistook Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists for insurgents was made public by a watchdog group.

According to WikiLeaks, which made the video public on its WikiLeaks.org website, the video shows the mistaken killing of two Reuters journalists, photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40. The site has posted the video on YouTube with the title "Collateral Murder."

The video appears to show two men walking along a Baghdad street with what looked to the helicopter crews to be weapons but what are said by WikiLeaks to actually be cameras. On the audio, the U.S. crews discuss targeting, with their 50-caliber machine guns, of what they assume to be a group of insurgents.

After the initial bursts of helicopter gunship fire take down the journalists, WikiLeaks says civilians can be seen coming in a van to the aid of the wounded journalists, only to be targeted themselves.

Among those killed and injured were two children in the van who were seriously wounded.

The video's authenticity was confirmed by a Defense Department official according to Reuters.

WikiLeaks said:

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.

An excerpt of a Reuters report:

Major Shawn Turner, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, 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.

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

The helicopter gunsight video, with an audio track of conversation between the fliers, made public for the first time a stark view of one bloody incident in the seven-year war in Iraq.

Reuters issued a statement in response to the video:

"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 recognise the important work that journalists do and the extreme danger that photographers and video journalists face in particular," said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters news. "The video released today via Wikileaks is graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result."

The video is the rare chance to see a wartime instance of collateral damage, the deaths of non-combatants.

It is truly troubling, riveting and sad. It is some of the hardest video to watch coming out of the Iraq War.

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