Video Claims to Show Insurgents Dragging Burning Body of U.S. Pilot
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A video posted Wednesday on the Internet in the name of an extremist group claimed to show Iraqi terrorists dragging the burning body of a U.S. pilot on the ground after the crash of an Apache helicopter.
Parts of the video were blurry, and the face of the man was not shown. His clothes were so tattered it was impossible to tell if he was wearing an American military uniform, but he appeared to be wearing military fatigues.
The U.S. military condemned the posting and said that although reports of a Web site video "suggest that terrorists removed part of a body from the crash site, the authenticity of the video cannot be confirmed."
The U.S. military said an AH-64D Apache Longbow crashed about 5:30 p.m. Saturday due to possible hostile fire west of Youssifiyah, about 10 miles southwest of Baghdad, while conducting a combat air patrol.
The time and date stamp on the video was Sunday, April 2, and runs from 4:03 p.m. to 4:08 p.m., although the militant group, the Shura Council of Mujahedeen, said its military wing shot down the aircraft on Saturday.
The stamp shows the minutes and seconds do not run sequentially and the scenes appear disjointed, suggesting the tape was altered. But an expert on evaluating such tapes said that, "On an initial review, it does appear to be what it purports to be."
"Based on an initial review of the footage, it would seem to indicate the downing of a helicopter and the removal of crew and passengers from the craft," said Ben Venzke, a military contractor who assesses statements and videos from militant groups.
He said he did not consider the wrong time and date stamp "a strong indicator of lack of credibility," adding that the operator may have simply set it wrong.
"We are outraged that anyone would create and publish such a despicable video for public exposure," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington said.
On Sunday, the military said the pilots were "presumed dead" and that recovery efforts were under way, indicating they had not fully secured the site or retrieved the bodies. The military later identified the pilots killed as Capt. Timothy J. Moshier, 25, of Albany, N.Y., and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael L. Hartwick, of Orrick, Mo.
According to statements on Islamist Web sites, the Mujahedeen Shura Council was organized in January to consolidate Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups. The move was seen as a bid by insurgents to lower the profile of Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, whose mass attacks against Shiite civilians have tarnished the image of the insurgents among many Iraqis.
The video was blurry but the burning helicopter could be seen clearly. It showed the outlines of its destroyed blades and blood on various jagged pieces of wreckage spread over a field. It was not possible, however, to see if it had U.S. markings.
The video also clearly showed the bloodied, burning body of a man being dragged by other men through a field. Before the body was moved, the camera zoomed in on what appeared to be his waistline, which showed a scrap of underwear with the brand name "Hanes" on it. The man also appeared to be wearing camouflage fatigues.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and an al-Jaafari opponent, referred to the parliamentary option in an interview published Wednesday by the Saudi daily Al Madina.
"Consultations are taking place quickly," Talabani said. "We hope they will not take much longer than this, and if the (Shiites) stick by their stand on nominating Ibrahim al-Jaafari, then we will resort to parliament."
Its unclear how parliament will resolve the standoff. The constitution says the president must nominate the candidate of the largest bloc — the Shiites. The prime minister-designate then presents his Cabinet for approval by a majority of all 275 members.
Under the constitution, however, parliament must first elect a new president and two vice presidents by a two-thirds vote. With Talabani's term also ending, it is unclear whether he would have the authority to appoint a prime minister, and the Shiites could block his re-election.
In violence Wednesday:
— Two car bombs in the capital killed one woman and wounded 28.
— A suicide car bomb exploded at a joint U.S.-Iraqi military checkpoint south of Fallujah, killing at least one Iraqi soldier and four civilians, police said.
— Authorities said they found three bodies — two in Baghdad and one in Iskandiriyah, 30 miles to the south.
— Gunmen killed four people and wounded three in three separate shootings in Baghdad.
— Two Sunnis were killed in the mostly Shiite southern city of Basra, police said.
— U.S. and Iraqi troops killed an insurgent and captured nine in a raid in Youssifiyah, south of Baghdad, the U.S. command said.