An investigation prepared by a British website deals with the file of the killing of dozens of Iraqi demonstrators in Baghdad on October 4, 2019, as official accounts blame an unknown sniper, without revealing the identity of the real killer.
The writer Sudad Al-Salihi said – in her article published by the ” ” website – Middle East Eye British that this happened early that morning, when calm prevailed in the streets near the “Nakhil Mall” (east of Baghdad). Hours before the incident, hundreds of demonstrators swept the streets on the third day of mass anti-government demonstrations in the capital, Baghdad, and a number of cities in the south of the country, calling for an end to corruption, more jobs and better public services. Read also Who is the third party that interferes in Iraqi affairs? Video- He denied the existence of a third party.. A former Iraqi minister reveals the protesters’ killers and ignites the street Iraq’s protests end a “big rupture” between the generations of wars and youth
The writer confirmed that dozens of protesters were sleeping under the Muhammad al-Qasim bridge, after the security forces prevented them from reaching Tahrir Square (the main protest center in Iraq). At half past six, a yellow tuk-tuk with 3 people on board stopped near the blast wall that security forces had set up next to a gas station to block the main road leading to the square. Two left the vehicle carrying small blue backpacks, and then broke the chains on the parts surrounding the wall. cementitious;
Some protesters gathered in the hope that they would have the opportunity at that time to reach their friends and to the square. Suddenly, the tuk-tuk passengers threw Molotov cocktails at the wall and towards the security forces, before quickly fleeing from the place. Most of the protesters, who were asleep, had no idea what had happened until “the gates of hell,” as one eyewitness described it, opened, and bullets began flying.
Rumors spread among the protesters that unidentified snipers who were stationed above the mall were targeting protesters during the chaos. In this regard, Iraqi officials said that unidentified snipers on the rooftops targeted the security forces and the demonstrators “to sow discord.” According to official statements, 4 people – including two security personnel – were killed in the area between Tayaran Square and Al-Nakhil Mall.
The author pointed out that the official version of the attack did not tell what actually happened. In addition, the total number of victims, the cause of their deaths, and the identity of the killers have not been disclosed at the present moment; For this reason, Middle East Eye interviewed more than 10 former and current civilian and military officials with direct knowledge of the investigation and undisclosed official documents.
The British website concluded that 32 protesters may have been killed during the attack near Al Nakheel Mall. Moreover, the evidence – seen by the site – raised questions about whether the attack near the “mall” was just a systematic attack by the security forces. While government officials continued to blame unknown parties, The sources told the site that investigators assigned to them by then Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi were able within 11 days to find out who planned this attack.
Behind closed doors, the perpetrators were blamed and sent to fight ISIS in Kirkuk, where officials hoped they would be killed and the incident forgotten. In fact, the government has quietly offered financial compensation to the families of those killed in the attack, but has never made clear who was behind the killings.
Meanwhile, officials who knew what had happened remained silent. At several stages, they obstructed the work of human rights organizations and UN investigators to discover the truth. For its part, the families of the demonstrators who were killed that day and hundreds of others killed later, and the Iraqi street remained; Unable to tell the truth. Abdul Razzaq Abdullah – whose 17-year-old son was killed on that day – said that he “does not know until today what caused his killing.”
The Friday morning attack near Al Nakheel Mall was not the only protest that erupted during the first week of October 2019, which claimed many lives.
Most independent journalists and human rights monitors were unable to approach the city squares where the protesters were stationed and where most of the killings, kidnappings and large-scale arrests took place. Moreover, domestic and international pressures were growing on the then Iraqi prime minister. On October 12, 2019, Abdul-Mahdi formed a high-ministerial commission of inquiry and ordered an investigation into the killings, including those near Al-Nakhil Mall.
10 days later, the relevant committee announced some of its findings on the state-owned Al-Iraqiya satellite channel, concluding that 149 civilians and 8 security personnel were killed in 8 governorates due to the use of “excessive force and live ammunition” to quell protests.
In return, the investigators issued a confidential 14-page report, a copy of which was obtained by Middle East Eye, and described as “top secret,” dated October 21, 2019; The report confirms that the largest number of deaths in Baghdad occurred in the area adjacent to Al-Nakhil Mall.
The report also stated that the committee found evidence proving that “sniper fire targeted demonstrators from the roof of a building in central Baghdad”, with indications of “the presence of a sniper site (…) and upon inspection, several empty sniper cartridges were found.” No further details were given about the alleged building, nor about the number or type of cartridges found by investigators.
The website reviewed an earlier draft of the secret report, which contains a paragraph explaining that the building referred to in the final report is located near the area where the attack took place, but what the investigators avoided mentioning even in the initial draft of the secret report is that their evidence refers only to one sniper.
According to a former Iraqi minister and a key member of the High Ministerial Fact Finding Committee; “There was only one sniper, and this was also revealed by the British site investigation. The strange thing is that we do not yet know who put him (the sniper) there, and to which side he belongs. All field commanders denied any connection with him or giving him orders to be stationed there.”
Sources familiar with the attack stated that Iraqi officials used the findings of the commission to promote the idea that unidentified snipers were behind the killings. Lieutenant-General Jalil al-Rubaie, the Baghdad operations commander at the time, was among the first to officially promote the account of the unknown snipers.
The day after the attack, al-Rubaie said, “A sniper stationed in one of the capital’s areas and targeted the demonstrators who came out to demand their rights (…) the authorities tried to arrest him, but he managed to escape to an unknown destination.” Other parties confirmed the same story.
Weeks later, former Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari said in a television interview that “a third party is involved in killing protesters,” referring to the involvement of armed factions backed by Iran. A high-ranking security official who saw footage of the attack said that these explanations were an effective way to close the investigation file. What was required was to cover up what happened, because blaming unidentified snipers – according to him – means hinting at the involvement of a third party.
The official pointed out that “the snipers’ story was reasonable to some extent, even the demonstrators themselves repeat it and confirm it in their testimonies,” adding that “the aim was to blame the armed factions backed by Iran to cancel any demands to hold the real perpetrator accountable.”
What really happened?
The writer said that the gunmen who killed the demonstrators early on the fourth of October were not unidentified snipers, but rather the Iraqi security forces tasked with protecting the area, after tuk-tuk passengers threw Molotov cocktails at the isolation wall, and the soldiers responded with intense fire According to a high-ranking security official who saw footage of the attack recorded on surveillance cameras.
Speaking about this, the same source said, “When some soldiers saw their colleagues burning in their cars, they lost their nerve and started shooting hysterically and randomly from machine guns installed on their cars; it was a real massacre. We did not receive advance orders to use live ammunition, but an incompetent officer lost He got nervous and started shooting, so the rest followed him.”
The source added that “the force deployed at the site was trained to fight in wars and does not have internal security experience (…) it certainly was not qualified to deal with the demonstrators.” He explained that most of the demonstrators were hit by indirect fire from a soldier who was stationed on top of a military vehicle with a medium-range machine gun.
This account was confirmed by several eyewitnesses, 3 officers and two officials who were aware of the results of the investigations, and they told the site that automatic fire killed most of the victims. But it was not the frantic shooting that caused such great losses, but the angle from which they fired.
The officers said the types of machine guns used by Iraqi forces would “rip apart the target” if they were fired directly into a crowd. Shooting upwards at an angle of between 60 and 90 degrees, it will frighten crowds but is not fatal.
But according to a high-ranking security official, on October 4, soldiers did not fire directly at the protesters, but rather at an angle of 30 to 45 degrees, “and as time goes by, some of their hands get tired and their shooting drops.”
According to a security official, “most of the victims on that day fell as a result of stray bullets, not from direct fire.”
His account coincides with the findings detailed in the special report of the Higher Ministerial Fact-Finding Committee, which indicated that about 70 percent of the protesters killed in Baghdad were wounded in the head and chest.
A member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights confirmed these details, based on the testimonies of doctors cooperating with them. At least 18 protesters and two soldiers were killed, and dozens were injured. Officials sought to cover up what happened, relatives of the victims and doctors working in emergency rooms in Baghdad said.
Official figures indicate that only 4 people were killed, including two security personnel, while the reception doctor confirmed 18 bodies, most of whom died of fatal wounds to the head and upper parts of the body.
And the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) opened an investigation into the incident, and indicated that “the perpetrator or perpetrators of the attack are unknown.” The mission admitted, without elaborating, that it faced “significant challenges” in gathering information about the attack.
While UN investigators and human rights investigators sought to identify the perpetrators without success, the government had already agreed to compensation packages for the families of those killed in the attack.
In late October 2019, the Council of Ministers issued a decision classifying the protesters who were killed as “victims of wrong military operations.” But questions soon arose during that period, whether the October 4th attack near the Palm Mall was an isolated reaction to the killing of two soldiers, or just a glimpse into the systematic violence that lasted for several days.
In this regard, the security official who saw footage of the attack says he is not sure exactly when the killing began, or why it broke out. “The closest explanation for what happened to me is that the two soldiers were killed on the 3rd of October, not the 4th, as the military authorities announced at the time,” he added. This means that the Palm Mall massacre lasted 3 days in fact, and a large number of governmental and non-governmental actors colluded to cover it up.
The government’s compensation to the families of the dead protesters was an explicit admission of their killing by Iraqi security forces, whose identity has not been revealed to anyone.
Who did it?
The mixed groups of police units and military teams that were roaming the streets of Baghdad that day made it very difficult to pinpoint the source of the shooting near the “Mall”. More than 10 senior officials who participated in the investigation committees set up by the governments of Abdul-Mahdi and his successor Mustafa Al-Kazemi refused to answer any questions, or claimed that they were not allowed to reveal any details.
But after interviewing more than 10 former and current civilian and military officials with direct knowledge of the investigation, MEE learned that the area between Tayaran Square and Al-Nakhil Mall was under the control of two major forces on the day of the attack, the commando regiment of Baghdad Operations Command and the Brigade 45th Infantry Division of the Iraqi Army’s 11th Division, along with some other security services.
According to these sources, the soldiers of the Commandos Regiment of the Baghdad Operations Command were wearing the uniforms of the rapid response forces, who were not deployed in the area. But the witnesses – who had no idea the uniform had changed – were convinced that the Rapid Response Forces carried out the killings, details that have not been revealed in official investigations to date. On the other hand, Middle East Eye learned that the fact-finding committee set up by Abdul-Mahdi was fully aware of the participants.
After 11 days of investigation, the commission on October 22, 2019 recommended the removal of 87 officers from their posts, and their involvement in the attack documented in their records; And the dismissal of the Baghdad Operations Commander, his security assistant, the commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade of the Iraqi army, the commander of the 1st Division in the Federal Police, and the commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade, in addition to the removal of the commander of the 2nd regiment of the 45th Infantry Brigade and the commander of the Commandos Regiment of the 1st Division in the Federal Police, with their referral to Military investigative bodies.
At the time, the committee handed information and CDs containing evidence to the Supreme Judicial Council explaining exactly what had happened in Baghdad that week, including the Palm Mall.
The writer pointed out that what none of the committee members revealed – and what everyone sought to hide with “strange complicity”, according to a high-ranking military official familiar with the investigation – is that the two soldiers who were killed were members of the 45th Brigade of the 11th Infantry Division of the Iraqi army, i.e. Those involved in the Palm Mall massacre were their comrades from the same brigade.
This was revealed by officers who were briefed on the results of the investigation into the reasons for the sudden rise in the number of demonstrators killed in Baghdad by Abdul Amir al-Shammari, the current deputy head of joint operations. Their testimonies were then confirmed by a Rapid Response Force officer and a key member of the Ministerial High Commission of Inquiry, who told MEE that “it is better to keep some information confidential because revealing it would stir up discord.”
Several family members of the dead have filed lawsuits against the government, to no avail. In this regard, Abdul Razzaq Abdullah – whose son Muqtada was killed on October 4, 2019 – said, “I filed a lawsuit against the government, the former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and the head of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Faleh al-Fayyad. He continued, “Muqtada was nothing but a child, and I do not know.” What sin did he commit to be killed in such a hideous manner?”