Revealed: Never-before-seen footage of a dramatic Apache helicopter gunfight in the moments before Marine A shot a wounded Taliban insurgent dead
By Sam Greenhill, Chief Reporter For The Daily Mail 17:34 BST 02 Feb 2017, updated 21:44 BST 02 Feb 2017
- Three new videos of moments that led to Marine A incident released today
- Apache gunship fires at Taliban fighter later killed by Alexander Blackman
- British crew believed the man ‘simply couldn’t have survived’ the lethal barrage
- Marine A would go on to locate the wounded fighter and then shoot him
- Blackman’s appeal against his conviction to be held in coming months
Video extracts from the Marine A incident were released for the first time today.
They show a patrol of Marines watching a British Apache helicopter gunship hovering in the sky as it unleashes a barrage of fire at a Taliban fighter.
The clattering from the gunship’s fearsome 30mm cannon can be heard clearly.
It is the opening scene of what became the most controversial episode in the Afghanistan war – culminating in the jailing of Sergeant Alexander Blackman. known as Marine A.
The footage, pictured, was filmed on a helmet-mounted video camera worn by one of the junior Marines in the patrol, Corporal Christopher Watson
The Ministry of Defence released the video last night following a court application by the BBC, The Guardian and other media organisations.
The dramatic footage comes from a helmet-mounted video camera worn by one of the junior Marines in Sgt Blackman’s patrol.
The video was used to convict Sgt Blackman at his court martial in 2013 but has never been seen by the public, as it was ruled too inflammatory and a potential ‘propaganda gift to terrorists’.
In a ruling earlier this week, the High Court did not agree to release the full video – but has permitted its partial release, allowing the opening scenes of the episode to be viewed by the public for the first time.
The newly-released video clips do not show the shooting incident itself, only some of the events leading up to it.
The footage begins in a grassy field shortly after two insurgents had been spotted creeping up on a remote British outpost in Helmand Province.
An Apache was summoned from Camp Bastion to counter their stealth attack, and Sgt Blackman’s patrol was sent out too.
The aircrew spotted one of the gunmen in a cornfield.
As the Marines watch, several bursts of loud gunfire can be heard as the Apache unleashes 139 rounds from its 30mm cannon.
The newly-released video clips do not show the shooting incident itself, but shots can be heard in the background as the Marine patrol searches for the insurgents
The Marines, positioned some distance away, can be heard shouting ‘Come on!’ and ‘I think he’s dead’.
As might be expected of young troops in a dangerous battlefield, their language is course as they are heard discussing the Apache crew’s aim.
A voice says: ‘They’ve missed him. They’ve f***ing missed the cheeser.’
The Marines accuse the Apache crew of ‘error after error after error’ and suggest they should have fired a Hellfire rocket instead.
The next clip from the blisteringly hot afternoon in September 2011 shows Sgt Blackman and Jack Hammond, known as Marine C, walking over to examine the wounded man.
They found an AK47, spare ammunition and a hand grenade lying by his blood-soaked body in the 50C heat. The insurgent cannot be seen.
The rest of the episode including the shooting will not be shown publicly, but the story of what happened next is well known.
Other footage shows the patrol moving through a field and holding their positions as they search for the Taliban fighters
Sgt Blackman led his patrol into the cornfield where they found an AK47, spare ammunition and a hand grenade by the insurgent’s ‘blood-soaked’ body
Sgt Blackman shot the insurgent, famously quoting from Hamlet as he said: ‘Shuffle off this mortal coil.’
After Sgt Blackman’s court martial, three judges ruled that the video of the shooting incident should not be made public.
At the time, government terrorism experts had advised the judges that Sgt Blackman and his family could be at risk from Islamic extremists.
Paul Mott, the deputy head of the government’s Research Information and Communications Unit, said at the time that the video was ‘a gift in propaganda terms’.
The court martial’s Judge Advocate General, Jeff Blackett, ruled that the release of the video would ‘generate significant feelings of anger and revenge among certain people and will incite attacks on British service personnel at home and abroad’.
The application for the video to be partially released was made on behalf of the BBC, Sky News, ITN, and The Guardian and Times Newspapers.
Wedding day: Sgt Alexander Blackman with his wife Claire when they married in 2009 – but reunion hopes were dashed before Christmas after he was not granted bail
Proud: Claire Blackman was defiant and said that despite the disappointment that her husband won’t be freed he still has the chance to appeal against his conviction this year
They want to use it to illustrate reports of Sgt Blackman’s appeal, which begins next week on Tuesday.
Hundreds of ex-Marines and other supporters are expected to travel to the Royal Courts of Justice in London in solidarity.
They will pack the public gallery of the Lord Chief Justice’s historic court number 4 where five of the most senior judges in the land will preside over Sgt Blackman’s fate.
He is serving life for the shooting. Thanks to generous Daily Mail readers who funded a new legal team, he won the right to the new appeal, which is expected to last three days.
The court will hear how three eminent psychiatrists now agree he was suffering from ‘combat stress disorder’ at the time he pulled the trigger.
The judges could commute his sentence from murder to manslaughter with diminished responsibility, or order a retrial.