'Something was not right': Cameraman goes public on video footage of marines

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The Independent US

The unarmed Iraqi prisoner killed by a US marine during the battle of Fallujah made no movements apart from breathing before he was shot dead, the NBC journalist who filmed the incident said yesterday.

The unarmed Iraqi prisoner killed by a US marine during the battle of Fallujah made no movements apart from breathing before he was shot dead, the NBC journalist who filmed the incident said yesterday.

In a new and wrenching account of the episode inside a mosque on 13 November, the journalist Kevin Sites also indicated that at least two, possibly three other wounded prisoners left behind by the marines on 12 November were shot by another unit the following day.

The incident, shown on TV around the world, has created dismay and indignation, especially in the Arab world. The marine in question has been taken off active duty while the case is investigated by the US military.

Sites presents his story of what happened as "An Open Letter to the Devil Dogs of the 3.1". He said that upon his return to the mosque on 13 November, he saw "the same black plastic body bags containing the remains of the 10 insurgents killed the day before". He added: "More surprising, I see the same five men that were wounded from Friday as well. It appears that one of them is now dead and three are bleeding to death from new gunshot wounds. The fifth is partially covered by a blanket and is in the same place and condition he was in on Friday, near a column."

Sites said he looked closely at both the dead and the wounded, but there seemed to be no weapons. He then told a marine lieutenant that three were wounded the previous day.

At that point, however, one of the marines claimed that one of the wounded was pretending to be dead. Sites then saw the marine aim at the man. There were "no sudden movements, no reaching or lunging", but "he pulls the trigger. There is a small splatter against the back wall and the man's leg slumps down. "Well, he's dead now," says another marine in the background.

The NBC journalist stressed he had been extra-careful to present a balanced picture, saying that as an experienced war reporter he was well aware that dead and wounded insurgents could be booby-trapped.

"No one, especially someone like me, who has lived in a war zone, would deny that a soldier or marine could legitimately err on the side of caution under those circumstances," he writes, addressing the marines. "War is about killing your enemy before he kills you. I can't know what was in the mind of that marine. He is the only one who does."

But Sites added: "As an experienced war correspondent, who was aware of possible mitigating circumstances, it appeared to me very plainly that something was not right. I was not watching from a hundred feet away. I was in the same room. Aside from breathing, I did not observe any movement."

A moment later, the marine who fired the shot became aware that Mr Sites was in the room. "He came up to me and said: 'I didn't know sir - I didn't know.' The anger that seemed present just moments before turned to fear and dread."

Mr Sites said he wrestled with whether to broadcast the tape, or destroy it, but decided that "hiding [the incident] wouldn't make it go away."

There had been other people in the room and what happened was bound to come out, he concluded.

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