Compelling evidence of war crimes in Iraq: Wikileaks

Saturday, October 23, 2010

WASHINGTON - Revealing another 400,000 classified US military documents, whistle-blower WikiLeaks has indicated “compelling evidence of war crimes” and a “systematic sectarian cleansing” that led to the mass killing of civilians in Iraq.

The Pentagon has denied the charges but the secret files related to America’s war in Iraq leaked Friday provide a new picture of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed, a new window on the role that Iran has played in supporting Iraqi militants and many accounts of abuse by Iraqi’s army and police, according to The New York Times which was provided early access to the papers.

The vast majority of slain civilians were killed by other Iraqis, the documents said and also detailed Iran’s role in supplying Iraqi militia fighters with weapons, including the most lethal type of roadside bomb.

Field reports assert that Iraqi militants travelled to Iran for training as snipers and in using explosives, according to the Times. Iran’s Quds Force urged Iraqi extremists it was working with to kill Iraqi officials, the Times reported.

The Times said that hundreds of reports of beatings, burnings and lashings suggested that “such treatment was not an exception.”

Most abuse cases contained in the new batch of leaks appear to have been ultimately ignored, the paper said.

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange told CNN Friday that the new round of field reports shows “compelling evidence of war crimes” committed by forces of the US-led coalition and the Iraqi government.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell rebutted the charge.

“We vetted every single one of the documents, word by word, page by page,” he told CNN, and added that the vetting began in July. “There is nothing in here which would indicate war crimes. If there were, we would have investigated it a long time ago.”

Assange said the documents contained more than 1,000 reports on the torture or abuse of detainees by Iraqi government forces and that he expects that 40 wrongful death lawsuits will be filed as a result of the new leaks.

He dismissed concerns that the publication of the documents could endanger US troops and Iraqi civilians, asserting that the Pentagon “cannot find a single person that has been harmed” due to WikiLeaks’ previous release of 76,000 pages of documents related to the US-led war in Afghanistan.

The reports make it clear that most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis. It cited two incidents as the worst days of the war — Aug 31, 2005, when a stampede on a bridge in Baghdad killed more than 950 people after several earlier attacks panicked a huge crowd, and Aug 14, 2007, when truck bombs killed more than 500 people in a rural area near the border with Syria.

But it was systematic sectarian cleansing that drove the killing to its most frenzied point, making December 2006 the worst month of the war, with about 3,800 civilians killed, the reports said. About 1,300 police officers, insurgents and coalition soldiers were also killed in that month.

The documents also reveal many instances in which US troops killed civilians - at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations.

In at least three other instances reported in the archive, Iraqis surrendered to helicopter crews without being shot.

Iraq Body Count, which did a preliminary analysis of the archive, estimated that it listed 15,000 deaths that had not been previously disclosed.

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