No plans to reopen 2007 attack probe: US Iraq command

Last Updated: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 12:52

Washington: The US military`s Central Command said on Wednesday it has no current plans to reopen an investigation into a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, amid rights groups` appeals after graphic video footage was leaked.

Some international law and human rights experts who have watched the video of the incident say the Apache helicopter crew in the footage may have acted illegally.

Lawyers at Central Command have been reviewing the classified video, made public on Monday by a group that promotes leaking to fight government and corporate corruption, two US military officials said on condition of anonymity.

"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?" one of the officials said.

But Rear Admiral Hal Pittman, director of communications at Central Command, which oversees the war in Iraq, said in a statement: "Central Command has no current plans to reinvestigate or review this combat action."

Other officials said Central Command was seeking to play down its role in determining whether to reopen the case because the unit involved was no longer based in Iraq, shifting the onus to Army and Pentagon leaders to make the decision.

Detailed rules of engagement are generally kept classified to avoid tipping off adversaries about US tactics on the battlefield, Pentagon officials said.

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 the conversation between the helicopter crew and many who have seen it have been shocked at the images and at some of the fliers` comments.

The video shows an aerial view of a group of men moving about a square in a Baghdad neighbourhood. 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.

Human rights lawyers and other experts who have viewed the footage say they are concerned about how the helicopter fliers operated, particularly in opening fire on a van that arrived on the scene after the initial attack and whose occupants began trying to help the wounded.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 12:52

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