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16 Nov 2004 10:24
The Pentagon said on Monday night it was opening an investigation into the shooting of an unarmed and wounded Iraqi in Fallujah, following the release of television footage showing what appeared to be a close-range execution-style killing.
The Iraqi was one of five wounded prisoners left in a battle-scarred mosque after marines fought their way through the city at the weekend.
The footage of the apparent killing, captured by a pool report by NBC television, and first shown on Monday afternoon, disrupted what was supposed to be a day of triumph for the Pentagon.
One week after the start of the assault on the Sunni city, US military officials were claiming to have reasserted control over most areas of the rebel enclave.
Instead, however, that military success—following several days of heavy losses for the United States forces—was obscured by a furore at what was reported alternately as a “mercy killing” and an unlawful killing.
The film from Fallujah was shot in the aftermath of a ferocious battle in which marines stormed a mosque and an adjacent building. Kevin Sites, an NBC television correspondent embedded with the US troops, said that the mosque had been taken over by militants, and had been used to launch attacks on US forces.
In the ensuing clash, at least 10 militants were killed.
The five wounded were left in the mosque for another unit to move to hospital for treatment.
The camera pans to two severely wounded figures slumped against a wall, one with his face obscured by a red keffiyeh. However, it appears unclear if the marines are aware that the prisoners had been captured the day before.
Off camera, one marine can be heard asking if the Iraqis are armed. Moments later, a marine can be heard saying: “He’s fucking faking he’s dead. He’s faking he’s fucking dead.”
There is shouting among the marines and then one opens fire. At that point news channels, including CNN, blacked out the image.
“The pictures are too graphic for us to broadcast,” Sites said in his report. He said that the prisoner did not appear to be armed or pose a threat in any way.
The report said that the marine had been removed from the field, and was being questioned by the US military.
According to some reports, the marine had been shot and wounded the day before the incident in the mosque.
NBC’s Robert Padavick told members of the US television pool that NBC had agreed to a Pentagon request that the marine’s identity be hidden because the military authorities “are anticipating a criminal investigation, and as a result do not want to implicate anybody ahead of that.” - Guardian Unlimited Â
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