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Video Appears to Show U.S. Forces Firing on Unarmed Suspects in Baghdad

Iraq Shooting

The investigative organization WikiLeaks on Monday released military video of what it describes as three incidents of an "indiscriminate slaying" by U.S. forces near Baghdad on July 12, 2007. 

WikiLeaks says the encounters killed as many as 25 civilians, including two Reuters journalists. The U.S. military said in a statement at the time that a total of 11 people died in the strikes conducted by U.S. and Iraqi forces, including two Reuters employees. 

The video, obtained by WikiLeaks, is shot from two Apache helicopters on patrol in Iraq. The choppers were responding to reports of AK-47 gunfire in the suburb of New Baghdad when  military personnel on board spotted a group of nine to 12 persons, including what turned out to be the two Reuters photographers, walking through a courtyard. A military official confirmed the authenticity of the footage to Fox News. 

The military contends that the U.S. followed the appropriate "Rules of Engagement" for these episodes. In fact at the time, the Pentagon says U.S. troops were hit by rocket-propelled grenades (RPG's) and small arms fire while caught in a clash with Shia insurgents. 

"There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force," said multinational forces spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl in July, 2007. 

The video shows military personnel aboard the Apaches indicating they spot the suspects toting several AK-47s and several RPG's. But WikiLeaks contends that the Reuters photographers were only carrying cameras, which the military mistook for weapons. The helicopters circled multiple times before opening fire. 

"Keep shooting!," yells a U.S. soldier recorded in the chopper radio traffic. 

"Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards," responds another. 

"Nice!" adds a third. 

The two Reuters employees who died were 22-year-old photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his 40-year-old assistant Saeed Chmagh. The identities of the other casualties are unknown. 

Once the smoke clears from the U.S. attack, one of the Reuters employees appears to be wounded and is crawling away from the scene. 

"All you gotta do is pick up a weapon," says a voice aboard one of the Apaches. 

In the second incident, a van arrives and begins to pick up the bodies. U.S. forces fire again. 

WikiLeaks believes four people were killed in this attack. 

Later, American ground troops pull into the courtyard in an armored Humvee and appear to drive over one of the casualties. 

"I think they just drove over a body," says one of the voices aboard the Apaches. 

"Really?" asks a colleague 

"Yeah," answers the first voice with a chuckle. 

A bit later, the same helicopters spot several individuals entering a nearby building. U.S. troops receive permission to strike again, this time with Hellfire missiles. 

"Bastards!" shouts a voice from the helicopter. 

"Look at that bitch go!" chimes in another voice. 

"Nice missile," compliments a third voice. 

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks released the video at the National Press Club in Washington. He described the U.S. troops as callous and the shootings as "another day at the office." 

"The behavior of the pilots is like they're playing a video game," said Assange. "It's like they want to get high-scores in that computer game." 

The military wouldn't publicly confirm the video's authenticity but said it "presumably" was associated with an incident investigated in 2007.

"We are aware that several media outlets are airing footage depicting gunfire from a U.S. helicopter," the military said in a written statement. "At this time, we are working to verify the source of the video, its veracity, and when or where it was recorded."

Reuters attempted to obtain the 38-minute video without success through the Freedom of Information Act. Assange would not say specifically about how WikiLeaks obtained the video. 

"It was being conveyed by people in the U.S. military," he said, adding that some "people in the military don't like what's going on." 

Asked to comment on the video, a senior military official at the Department of Defense told Fox News on the condition of anonymity that "an investigation of the incidents confirmed our belief that these attacks were justified." 

"The individuals who were killed, apart from the Reuters journalists, were involved in hostile activity," this official said. 

The official also said all the material seen on this video has been addressed publicly by the Department of Defense. "With regard to the death of the journalists and the apparent misidentification -- all of this has been acknowledged in the past," the official said.  

The "Rules of Engagement" have not been changed following the incident.