In March 2006, a number of Iraqi civilians were killed under dubious circumstances in a home in the town of Ishaqi. Last week, WikiLeaks released a cable containing notes from U.N. investigators suggesting that the victims may have been executed and the event covered up by a U.S. airstrike. The U.S. government has been quiet about the killings, ignoring U.N. questioning, while the military maintains nothing improper occurred and won’t comment further.
To try to understand what happened, Salon’s Justin Elliott spoke with Kansas City Star reporter Matthew Schofield, who has followed the incident since he first wrote about it on assignment in Iraq in 2006. —ARK
I know there are competing accounts, so can you explain what do we know—or think—happened in this incident in 2006?
What we know happened—what everyone agrees on—is that U.S. troops went to a house in Ishaqi, Iraq, in March of 2006. In one official U.S. version, the troops were looking for an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist, or, in another official account, someone who had shot at U.S troops. When they approached the house in the early morning hours, there was a gunfight. Neighbors talked about this. In the U.S. version, in the course of the gunfight, the people in the house were killed, the house was destroyed at the same time, and they were able to detain the person they were looking for. In the account the neighbors told, as well as the report of a U.N. investigation on this, the house was standing when the soldiers went inside and was destroyed sometime later.
The bodies of the dead were found against one wall in one room, all handcuffed in white plastic handcuffs according to neighbors. The coroner we talked to after the incident said that the people who died were killed by gunshots to the upper chest and head. It didn’t necessarily look execution-style—the shots were not all to the same place in the head, or anything like that—but it looked like they were from fairly close range. His guess was that the bullets were from an M-16. The Iraqi police investigators, who had been trained by U.S. forces, said in their report that these had been execution-style killings by American forces.
AP / Hameed Rasheed
Iraqis gaze at the bodies of adults and children who were killed in a house in Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, in March 2006.