The video provides a rare, disturbing close-up of modern urban warfare at a time when violence was near its peak in Baghdad and the U.S. death toll was mounting.
In this incident, soldiers flying attack helicopters were called in to assist ground troops who had been pinned down by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
According to U.S. officials, the pilots arrived at the scene to find a group of men approaching the fight with what looked to be AK-47s slung over their shoulders and at least one rocket-propelled grenade.
A military investigation later concluded that what was thought to be an RPG was really a long-range photography lens; likewise, the camera looked like an AK-47.
Wikileaks.org posts video and documents passed along by anonymous sources. They posted the video of the July 2007 firefight at “collateralmurder.com.”
The shooters can be heard asking for permission to engage, and one says “Light ‘em up!”
Some men drop immediately, while at least one can be seen scrambling to get away.
“Ah, yeah, look at those dead bastards. Nice,” one shooter says.
The helicopters later destroy a vehicle that arrived on the scene to help a wounded man. When ground forces arrive, the video shows what looks to be a child being carried from the vehicle and U.S. troops saying the child should be sent to a local Iraqi hospital.
“Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids into the battle,” a cockpit voice can be heard saying.
Among those believed to have been killed in that attack was Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children also were wounded.
Navy Capt. Jake Hanzlik, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said U.S. forces in Iraq recognize many of the images in the video posted at Wikileaks.org and have no reason to believe it is a fake. However, he said, they were still comparing the video and audio to see if it matched their own.
Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Central Command is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Reuters said it couldn’t verify that the video was of its employees dying, even though it looks like one of the men killed had a camera slung over his shoulder.
The video is “graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result,” said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters news.