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The objective is to provide unbiased, partial information directly sourced from first-hand government transcripts, investigative journalist reports, and organizational press releases. The story will aim to provide the facts of a story without the unnecessary interpretive commentary.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Ishaqi Massacre - Who Are The Witnesses?
To present the witnesses and developments of the Ishaqi Massacres by analyzing various media reports, government statements, and eyewitness accounts.
US Forces raided a house owned by Faiz Harat Khalaf, about 60 miles north of Baghdad in the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi, eight miles north of the city of Balad on March 15th, 2006. The raid targeted a known Al-Qaeda operative known to be at the residence at the time of the raid.
"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."
11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, were killed in the aftermath of this raid in Iraq by US Forces:
Turkiya Muhammed Ali, 75 years
Faiza Harat Khalaf, 30 years
Faiz Harat Khalaf, 28 years
Um Ahmad, 23 years
Sumaya Abdulrazak, 22 years
Aziz Khalil Jarmoot, 22 years
Hawra Harat Khalaf, 5 years
Asma Yousef Maruf, 5 years
Osama Yousef Maruf, 3 years
Aisha Harat Khalaf, 3 years
Husam Harat Khalaf, 6 months
This information was obtained from the initial report on the incident provided on March 16th, 2006, by Matthew Schofield of Knight Ridder Newspapers. Three Knight Ridder Newspaper correspondents contributed to the report, whose identities remain anonymous.
Initial US military reports, placing the death toll at 4, were incorrect. 11 people were killed and multiple primary sources have indicated that the house was destroyed as American troops left, contradicting the official military position, which claims the house collapsed on its own accord.
Despite claims from two primary sources that the victims were found bounded and died from gunshot wounds to the head, these claims are not corroborated by photographic evidence, or the video seen by the Reuters reporter. Hospital officials have not confirmed the causes of death.
Since a person was removed alive from the building and arrested, it is highly improbable that those inside were not found or seen by American troops during the raid. It is likely that the house was destroyed as the Americans left, and those inside suffered as a result of the building collapsing or as a result of indirect gun shots.
No results from the US military investigation have been published. No arrests have been made.
- American Troops Executed Victims - Iraqi Police Report - KR - 03/16/06
Knight Ridder Newspapers, reported the details of an Iraqi Police Report, filed by Staff Colonel Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, the Assistant Chief of the Joint Coordination Center:
"The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including 5 children, 4 women and 2 men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."
"The report ... was compiled by the Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, a regional security center set up with United States military assistance." The report "was based on communications from local police."
"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.
He also said he knows the officer heading the investigation. 'He's a dedicated policeman, and a good cop,' he said when reached by phone in Tikrit from Baghdad. 'I trust him.'"
The report only states that "communication from local police" was used for the Police Report; however, this report forms the basis for the initial accusations that American troops executed those inside. The claim is also made that the house was destroyed as the troops were leaving.
- House Destroyed By American Troops As They Were Leaving - Ibrahim Hirat Khalaf (Brother of house-owner) - KR - 03/16/06
Knight Ridder Newspapers, also interviewed several witnesses to the incident and included their testimony in the original article:
"Ibraheem Hirat Khalaf, whose brother Faiz owned the house and was among the dead, said he watched and heard the assault from his home 100 yards away. He said that U.S. troops used six missiles from helicopters to destroy the house as they were leaving."
Times Online interviewed Khalaf further on March 21st, 2006:
Khalaf ran from his own house and hid in a nearby grove of trees. He saw the soldiers enter his brother’s home and then heard the sound of women and children screaming.
“Then there was a lot of machinegun fire,” he said last week. After that there was the most frightening sound of all — silence, followed by explosions as the soldiers left the house.
Khalaf said he had found the body of his mother Turkiya with her face unrecognisable. “She had been shot with a dumdum bullet,” he claimed.
This testimony verifies that the house was destroyed by American troops as they were leaving by helicopter missiles.
- Victims Were Handcuffed And All Had Bullet Shots In The Heads - Lt. Colonel Farooq Hussain (Local Police Commander) - KR/Reuters - 03/16/06
A local police commander, Lt. Col. Farooq Hussain, interviewed by a Knight Ridder special correspondent in Ishaqi, said autopsies at the hospital in Tikrit 'revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed.'
Amer Amery of Reuters reported (cached version) reported that Hussain had "said autopsies had been carried out at Tikrit hospital and found 'all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head'. The bodies, their hands bound, had been dumped in one room before the house was destroyed, Hussein said. Police had found spent American-issue cartridges in the rubble."
This testimony implies that the victims were found handcuffed and that the cause of death were bullets to the head. No independent verification for these claims was provided by the hospital.
- American Troops Shot Victims And Destroyed House As They Were Leaving - Major Ali Ahmed (Ishaqi Police Commander) - Reuters - 03/15/06
Reuters also reported (cached version) that Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said U.S. forces had landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including the five children. "After they left the house they blew it up," he said.
This testimony again accuses American troops of shooting the victims. It also supports the accusation that the house was blown up as American troops were leaving.
- At Least One Victim Had Head Wounds - Television Footage - Reuters - 03/15/06
Reuters reported (cached version) that television footage, presumably a local Iraqi station, "showed the bodies in the Tikrit morgue -- five children, two men and four women. Their wounds were not clear though one infant had a gaping head wound."
This evidence is not a primary source and cannot lead to any conclusions. This evidence implies that at least one victim had a head wound. The cause of this wound and whether or not other victims had these wounds is unclear.
- No Apparent Head Wounds – Photographic Evidence - AP - 03/15/06
The Associated Press’ Hameed Rasheed was on the scene and took several images of the victims:
One image appears on MSNBC:
More appear on CNN:
Finally, a free-lance journalist, Chris Floyd, has compiled many images from the Ishaqi massacres. The sources of his images have yet to be verified:
The photographic evidence, while extremely graphic, do not corroborate the single gun-shot wound to the head accusation. There are images of a child with gaping head wounds, but from visual observations, it cannot be concluded that these wounds were the result of gun-shots.
- The Victims Were Found Bounded - Hassan Kurdi Mahassen (Neighbour) – Times Online - 03/26/06
Times Online interviewed the neighbour Hassan Kurdi Mahassen on March 21st, 2006:
Hassan Kurdi Mahassen, who was also woken by the sound of helicopters and saw soldiers entering Fayez’s home after spraying it with such heavy fire that walls crumbled.
Mahassen said that once the soldiers had left — after apparently dropping several grenades that caused part of the house to collapse — villagers searched under the rubble “and found them all buried in one room”.
“Women and even the children were blindfolded and their hands bound. Some of their faces were totally disfigured. A lot of blood was on the floors and the walls.”
This evidence is from a primary source who also claims the victims had their hands bound. This testimony corroborates the police report and other eyewitness accounts.
- Only Four People Were Killed - US Army - Guardian/AT/CNN - 03/15/06
Initial US Army reports quoted Major Tim Keefe, a US military spokesperson:
"A battle damage assessment, the initial reports, said that what they saw were four people killed - a woman and two children and an enemy - and they detained an enemy."
A man suspected of being a "foreign fighter facilitator" was taken into coalition custody and is being questioned."
Maj Keefe said: "I saw those [autopsy] photos and it didn't appear there were any handcuffs."
A US Army press briefing on March 15th, 2006 referred to the incident:
“Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building,” said Tech. Sgt. Stacy Simon, a military spokeswoman. “Coalition forces returned fire utilizing both air and ground assets.”
On March 21st, 2006, MSNBC reported that the US Army was opening up an investigation due to this discrepency:
"'Because of that discrepancy, we have opened an investigation,' Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a senior U.S. spokesman in Baghdad, said on Tuesday.