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Leaked Video Shows US Attack in Iraq that Allegedly Killed Journalists

Apache helicopter's gun video showing the Reuters news photographer and his driver, among other men

A classified military video showing a U.S. attack in Baghdad three years ago has been posted on the Web. The group that released the video - WikiLeaks - says the attack killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. obtained the video from an unidentified member of the military. The graphic video has re-ignited the debate over how to protect civilians and reporters in the thick of war. VOA's Gabe Joselow has more.

Two Apache helicopters circle over a group of men walking in Baghdad in July 2007. They've been called in to assist US ground troops. A helicopter gunner asks for permission to fire.

"Hotel two-six, Crazy Horse one-eight. Have five to six individuals with AK 47s. Request permission to engage."

The U.S. soldiers say the men are carrying weapons. They receive permission and open fire on the group.

"Let Me know when you've got them."
"Let's Shoot"
"Light em all up"
"Come on fire"

In the incident, 12 people were killed.

Wikileaks, the group that posted the video, has identified two of the men as a Reuters news photographer and his driver.

The U.S. military has confirmed the authenticity of the video but not the identity of the two men.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, commenting on the video, was vague.

"Obviously it is very graphic in nature, and it's extremely tragic," said Robert Gibbs.

The video has revived a debate over rules of engagement in wartime and how to protect noncombatants.

An earlier U.S. military report said American forces acted appropriately, because they thought the group was a threat.

The military has also said machine guns and grenades were found near the site. But some officials have said the soldiers mistook a camera for a weapon.

The incident occurred at the height of the insurgency during the US military surge.

Defense analyst Michael O'Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution in Washington:

"You had friends and enemies everywhere on the battlefield, and so that, for the most part, meant that if you got into trouble as a westerner you had potential help not too far away," said Michael O'Hanlon. "That was reassuring, but it also meant that if you were unidentified you had potential friendly fire not too far away at a moment's notice."

Iraq's Journalist Syndicate says the incident shows the violence that civilians have suffered during the war.

"This latest crime can be added to the list of crimes committed by U.S. troops against Iraqi journalists and Iraqi civilians," said Muyad al-Lami. "There are U.S. troops who are incredibly crass and cruel in their treatment of citizens and journalists as well."

Reuter's editor-in-chief called the incident "emblematic" of the extreme danger encountered by journalists when they cover wars. The news agency has pressed the U.S. military to conduct a full investigation.