The organization also verified footage from Baghdad that corroborated testimony of witnesses who described the arrival of fleets of gunmen.
Witnesses describe how “endless gunmen” arrived in pick-up trucks and minivans whilst others who had mingled with the crowd shot and stabbed protesters and attacked and set fire to parts of the Garage al-Sinak building.
“The testimony we have a gathered leaves little doubt that this was a well-coordinated attack and raises serious questions as to how heavily-armed gunmen in a fleet of vehicles were seemingly able to pass through Baghdad’s checkpoints and inflict such a bloody onslaught,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.
One witness told Amnesty International: “They came to kill. They opened fire immediately. They targeted people by shooting straight at them, not in the air. They were not masked. I do not think they cared if anybody saw them.”
Another witness told Amnesty International: “They came in pick-up trucks and mini vans. Endless gunmen. We don’t know how they drove through Baghdad unstopped with all its checkpoints.
A third witness told Amnesty International: “It was terrifying, especially because the situation had been so calm for the past few days. The protesters were hopeful and had given so much importance to being organized and peaceful. Everyone felt strong after the Prime Minister’s resignation.”
For full testimonies (anonymous) see below.
It was terrifying, especially because the situation had been so calm for the past few days. The protesters were hopeful and had given so much importance to being organized and peaceful.
Everyone felt strong after the Prime Minister’s resignation, and after the way the tribes protected protesters in the south. Whoever did this last night, did not want this peace to last. They want people to be too scared to come to the street or challenge the status quo. Now protesters think that this is not the last of it. We all think they will come back for us.
They came in pick-up trucks and mini vans. Endless gunmen. We don’t know how they drove through Baghdad unstopped with all its checkpoints…Whoever it was that came…came to kill. They opened fire immediately. They targeted people by shooting straight at them, not in the air. They were not masked. I do not think they cared if anybody saw them. They had…Kalashnikovs. I did not see any stabbings or any other types of weapons. The lights went out in parts of al-Sinak and Khilani.
Maybe because the internet cannot be shut down anymore, they now want to shut the lights out on us, but we saw everything.
Testimony 2. Male protester
Last night I was not too far away from the building (Al-Sinak Garage) when there was a ripple of panic. People started saying there are gunmen. We started running…In that instance, we saw the pick-up trucks and vans of the gunmen arriving. They started shooting in all directions at the protesters. It all seemed as if it had been planned.
Testimony 3. Male protester
I was there last night. I saw Kalashnikovs.
We heard and saw BKCs (machine guns). I saw an empty box for BKC ammunition. At least seven BKCs were mounted on pick-up trucks that entered the area of the al-Sinak bridge and the al-Sinak Garage. My friend saw some of the gunmen carrying BKCs.
It is unclear how it started. What became clear is that they had already planted people among the crowds. Because when they entered, they came in two directions: one from Bab al-‘Adhem and the other from Al-Khilani Square. They started shooting immediately when they got near the Garage [building]. They entered the building and the fire was because of the clashes inside the building. A group of them reached the Al-Sinak bridge as well and started shooting at protesters.
They had complete control of the area from Abdel-Qader al-Gailany Shrine to the Al-Khilani Square – the entire road through Al-Sinak until the bridge. They had armed men in civilian clothing shooting at protesters. They controlled it until about 6am. It’s not true that they retreated during the night. Nobody is going to give you exact timing because it was complete chaos. It was our worst fears come true.