Possible Military ‘Cover-up’ in Ishagi Killings


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Press Accounts Suggest Possible Military 'Cover-up' in Ishagi Killings

By Greg Mitchell

Published: June 03, 2006 1:40 PM ET updated Sunday

NEW YORK The U.S military said Saturday it had found no wrongdoing in the March 
15 raid on a home in Ishaqi that left nine Iraqi civilians dead. But, as with 
the apparent massacre in Haditha, will a military "coverup" in this case come 

The Iraqi police charge that American forces executed the civilians, including a
75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old baby. The BBC has been airing video of the 
dead civilians, mainly children, who appeared to be shot, possibly at close 
range. Photographs taken just after the raid for Agence France-Presse, and 
reports at the time by Reuters and Knight Ridder, also appear to largely back up
the charge of an atrocity.

After the attack, American officials said that they had demolished the house in 
an airstrike after insurgents fired from the building. One insurgent, two women 
and a child were killed in the attack, they said.

After the Haditha killings, the military said all of the Iraqis had been killed 
in an explosion or a firefight.

"Allegations that the troops executed a family living in this safe house, and 
then hid the alleged crimes by directing an airstrike, are absolutely false," 
today's U.S. military statement said. It did not explain how so many children 
had been shot and killed.

A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said Saturday's report, which 
cleared the U.S. soldiers, was unfair and rushed. The government will demand an 
apology and compensation, the spokesman said, if it's own probe turns up 
something different.

More than two months ago, E&P covered the account by a Knight Ridder reporter 
who had obtained a police report on the incident. Here is our March 20, 2006, 
story, followed by a followup note, and the reporter's statements on a popular 
U.S. radio program.


NEW YORK-- Matthew Schofield, a Knight Ridder reporter in Baghdad, has obtained 
an Iraqi police report which, he reveals today, accuses American troops of 
executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in 
the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of 

The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room 
of the house, according to the police. Then the soldiers burned three vehicles, 
killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house. Knight Ridder has 
distributed a copy of the report.

A U.S. military spokesman, Major Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no 
information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before 
a Knight Ridder reporter brought them to his attention Sunday. "We're concerned 
to hear accusations like that, but it's also highly unlikely that they're true,"
he said. He added that U.S. forces "take every precaution to keep civilians out 
of harms' way. The loss of innocent life, especially children, is regrettable."

Just last week, Navy investigators announced they are looking into whether 
Marines intentionally killed 15 Iraqi civilians - four of them women and five of
them children - during fighting last November in Haditha.

Schofield points out that the report of the latest killings "is unusual because 
it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach 
their names to it....

"Brig. Gen. Issa al-Juboori, who heads the center, said that his office 
assembled the report on Thursday and that it accurately reflects the direction 
of the current police investigation into the incident."

The Knight Ridder article continues:

"According to police, military and eyewitness accounts, U.S. forces approached 
the house at around 2:30 a.m. and a firefight ensued. By all accounts, in 
addition to exchanging gunfire with someone inside the house, U.S. troops were 
supported by helicopter gunships, which fired on the house.

"But the accounts differ on what took place after the firefight.

"According to the U.S. account, the house collapsed because of the heavy fire. 
When U.S. forces searched the rubble they found one man, the al-Qaida suspect, 
alive. He was arrested. They also found a dead man they believed to be connected
to al-Qaida, two dead women and a dead child.

"But the report filed by the Joint Coordination Center, which was based on a 
report filed by local police, said U.S. forces entered the house while it was 
still standing.

"'The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 
persons, including five children, four women and two men,' the report said. 
'Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals.'

"The report identified the dead by name, giving their ages. The two men killed 
were 22 and 28. Of the women, one was 22, another was 23, a third was 30 and the
fourth was 75. Two of the children were 5 years old, two were 3, and the fifth 
was 6 months old, the document said."


Three days later, Schofield filed a second story that raised some doubts about 
the first. It said that another police report on the deaths in Ishagi 
contradicted the first in some ways, It said that each of the bodies bore two or
wounds, which could mean they were hit by shrapnel or bullets. The first report 
had held that each of the dead had been shot once in the head, which was more 
consistent with an execution-type killing.

Schofield appeared on the Democracy Now radio and TV program with Amy Goodman in
March. There, according to a transcript, he said:

"We were talking with the police officer who was first on the scene earlier 
today. He explained the scene of arriving. He said they waited until U.S. troops
had left the area and it was safe to go in. When they arrived at the house, it 
was in rubble. I don't know if you've seen the photos of the remains of the 
house, but there was very little standing.

"He said they expected to find bodies under the rubble. Instead, what they found
was in one room of the house, in one corner of one room, there was a single man 
who had been shot in the head. Directly across the room from him against the 
other wall were ten people, ranging from his 75-year-old mother-in-law to a 
six-month-old child, also several three-year-olds -- a couple three-year-olds, a
couple five-year-olds, and four other -- three other women.

"Lined up, they were covered, and they had all been shot. According to the 
doctor we talked to today, they had all been shot in the head, in the chest. A 
number of -- you know, generally, some of them were shot several times. The 
doctor said it's very difficult to determine exactly what kind of caliber gun 
they were shot with. He said the entry wounds were generally small and round, 
the exit wounds were generally very large. But they were lined up along one 

"There was a blanket over the top of them, and they were under the rubble, so 
when the police arrived, and residents came to help them start digging in, they 
came across the blankets. They picked the blankets up. They say, at that point, 
that the hands were handcuffed in front of the Iraqis. They had been handcuffed 
and shot. And the Iraqi assumption is that they were shot in front of the man 
across the room. They came to be facing each other.

"There is nothing to corroborate that. The U.S. is now investigating this 
matter, along with the Haditha matter. That's kind of where we stand right now."

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