One of the US diplomatic cables in the latest batch released by Wikileaks offers evidence of US troops executing at least 10 Iraqi civilians in one incident, including women and children who were handcuffed and shot in the head.
In a communication to US officials dated less than two weeks after the March 15, 2006 nighttime raid, Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said autopsies performed on the dead civilians showed all were handcuffed and shot in the head.
Among the dead were five children, all five years old or younger, and four women. In an email to McClatchy Newspapers on Wednesday, Alston noted both the US and Iraqi governments had not been forthcoming in his request for information, as “was the case with most of the letters to the U.S. in the 2006-2007 period,” a time of peak fighting in the war-torn country.
“The tragedy is that this elaborate system of communications is in place but the (UN) Human Rights Council does nothing to follow up when states ignore issues raised with them,” Alston added.
At the time of the executions, US military officials in Iraq said eyewitness accounts of the incident were likely false, and later said the matter warranted no further investigation. The officials refused to reveal unit identities which might have taken part in the killings.
According to McClatchy, the Pentagon has not responded to a request for comment over the newly released cable.
During an early investigation of the incident which occurred in Ishaqi, a town located about 80 miles northwest of Baghdad, US military spokesmen claimed a suspected member of al-Qaida was captured from a first-floor room after an intense ground and air attack left the house he was in destroyed.
However, the newly released cable offers another perspective, and adds credibility to versions offered by townspeople, who claimed US forces destroyed the house after the executions.
McClatchy reports Alston’s version of the killings shows US troops were met with gunfire coming from a house belonging to an Iraqi farmer. An ensuing gunfight lasted about 25 minutes.
In his email to McClatchy, Alston wrote, the “troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them. After the initial MNF intervention, a U.S. air raid ensued that destroyed the house.”
Alston added “Iraqi TV stations broadcast from the scene and showed bodies of the victims (i.e. five children and four women) in the morgue of Tikrit. Autopsies carries (sic) out at the Tikrit Hospital morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed.”
The cable follows closely the information neighbors provided Knight Ridder reporters at the time. The neighbors said American troops approached the house around 2:30 a.m. and a firefight erupted. In addition to the exchange of gunfire, troops were supported by fire support from helicopter gunships.
The new cable also supports the original report from Col. Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, the assistant chief of the Joint coordination Center. The initial report said: “the American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men. Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals,” McClatchy notes.
Doctors who performed the autopsies also substantiate the cable, telling Knight Ridder at the time “that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed.”
The civilians killed were all family members, including a husband and his wife, their three children, the husband’s mother, sister and nieces and a visiting relative. Among the children killed was a 5-month old baby.
The new cable will do little to improve the American image in Iraq, and like the Collateral Murder video released by Wikileaks, could ignite an international fuse of resentment toward the US.