WikiLeaks said on Saturday its release of nearly 4,00,000 classified US files on the Iraq war showed 15,000 more Iraqi civilians died than previously thought.
Uploaded on the WikiLeaks’ website, the files detailed gruesome cases of prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces that the US military knew about but did not seem to investigate.
The whistle-blowing website’s founder, Julian Assange, who was sharply criticised by the Pentagon for publishing the secret reports, said the release should throw light on what had happened in Iraq, thwarting an official “attack on the truth”.
Working with Iraq Body Count, a group run by academics and peace activists that estimates Iraq casualties, WikiLeaks had calculated that the documents revealed about 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths, Assange said.
Pentagon deplores leak
The Pentagon decried the website’s publication of the secret reports — the largest security breach of its kind in US military history, far surpassing the group’s dump of more than 70,000 Afghan war files in July.
US officials said the leak endangered US troops and threatened to put some 300 Iraqi collaborators at risk by exposing their identities.
WikiLeaks said it had edited out sensitive information and was confident the documents contained no detail that could lead to anyone being harmed.
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak urged US President Barack Obama to order an investigation.
Assange said the documents showed evidence of war crimes. He also told Al Jazeera television the documents provided enough material for 40 wrongful killing lawsuits.
In one 2007 case, according to the documents, an Apache helicopter killed two Iraqi suspects who had made signs they wanted to surrender. The document said, “They cannot surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets.” It can be seen at: http://warlogs.wikileaks.org/id/E8DE9B9F-E468-B587-E4B332C09FF48BE2/
Media organisations given advance access to the documents concluded they showed US forces had effectively turned a blind eye to torture and abuse of prisoners by Iraqi forces.
The documents also cited cases of rape and murder.