Video and documentary evidence obtained by Task & Purpose in the investigation of Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, the Navy SEAL accused of murdering a suspected ISIS fighter in Mosul, Iraq last year, cast doubt on his guilt while revealing more details about the alleged victim.
Gallagher, a 19-year veteran of the Navy, has been charged with four counts of violating military law, the most serious of which is premeditated murder. On or about May 3, 2017, according to the charge sheet, he allegedly murdered a wounded ISIS fighter by stabbing him in the neck and body with a knife. Witnesses say the fighter was receiving medical treatment at the SEALs’ compound when the attack occurred.
Now, based on a video filmed by a journalist who was embedded with the Iraqi military the day of the attack, and an investigative report from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service entered into evidence in Gallagher’s Article 32 hearing, Task & Purpose can reveal more about the final moments of the alleged victim’s life.
In the video, uploaded to YouTube on May 15, 2017, Iraqi journalist Ali Jawad interviews the ISIS fighter as he lay wounded on the ground from what prosecutors said was a coalition air strike. The fighter tells Jawad he joined ISIS before Ramadan.
The transcript of the video, according to NCIS, continues:
Reporter: Why did you join ISIS?
Victim: My dad was beating me, and telling me we do not go with ISIS.
Reporter: So why did you join them if your dad did not accept?
Victim: So they can tell me “good job.”
Reporter: That’s it, so they can say to you “good job”?
Reporter: Dear our channel watchers, here is a young man, about 17 years old. ISIS fooled him to join them.
The video continues as Awad interviews the commander on the scene, Brig. Gen. Mahdi Alhayali of the Iraqi Emergency Response Division. Alhayali tells the reporter the fighter, who he calls “the kid,” was armed with a PKC-47 machine gun when he was captured.
“Our soldiers shot at him, injured him, and now he is ready for transfer to get medical attention so we can make use of his information,” Alhayali says.
In October 2018, an NCIS agent went to Iraq to interview Maj. Gen. Abbas al-Jubouri of Iraqi ERD and his subordinate, Col. Omar Issa Kadhim. Abbas spoke glowingly of Gallagher, who he called “Chief Ed,” the investigative report says.
Abbas stated that Gallagher was “very professional, a hard worker, and was more proficient at his job than any American he has ever worked with.” The Iraqi ERD, a unit that has itself been accused of war crimes, had worked alongside the members of SEAL Team 7 throughout the operation to clear Mosul of ISIS fighters in the summer of 2017.
The general credited the SEALs for his unit’s success, saying that without their assistance “the Iraqis would have failed.” He then gave his account of the circumstances surrounding the capture of the ISIS fighter.
According to the report, “Abbas and Kadhim recalled vividly the incident in question, when the young suspected ISIS fighter was brought back to their compound. Abbas and Kadhim both advised the young man was ‘definitely’ an ISIS fighter, and not a ‘suspected’ ISIS fighter. Kadhim stated he actually brought the ISIS fighter to the compound.”
Abbas, the report continued, said his men had battled this particular group of roughly 30 to 50 ISIS fighters for more than a week, and that numerous ERD members were shot. The young ISIS fighter was the only member of the group to survive the final battle and was “wounded very badly,” having received “numerous gunshot wounds.”
“The most prolific wound was to his leg,” the report states, directly quoting Abbas as saying “the artery was shot.” He also claimed he was bleeding badly with little chance of survival. Both Abbas and Kadhim denied the fighter was wounded by an air strike.
In the video, a bandage is wrapped around the fighter’s left leg below the knee with blood clearly visible. More blood can be seen around his groin area, which is covered by his pants. The journalist then rode behind ERD as they transported the fighter to the SEALs’ compound, according to the report.
Abbas told NCIS “his men brought the wounded ISIS member back to the compound on the hood of the vehicle, of which the Americans’ were mad, because ‘they thought we [Iraqis] were mistreating the wounded fighter by bringing him there in that manner, and dragging him onto the ground.”
“Afterwards, the SEAL medics worked on the fighter for a long period of time. Kadhim stated the SEALs gave the fighter ‘three (3) bags, tubed his side, and worked on his leg,’ but it did no good due to the fighter ultimately being in very bad condition,” the NCIS investigator wrote. “Abbas stated the ISIS fighter was going to die, even with the life saving measures, due to his artery being pierced by a gunshot wound.”
“He was almost dying,” Abbas said later. “He had lost too much blood.”
Abbas said he believed the ISIS fighter was between 15 and 17 years old, “even after stating the individual reported to be 17,” according to the document. (In testimony during Gallagher’s Article 32 hearing, NCIS Special Agent Joe Warpinski estimated he was about 15.)
Abbas later disputed during NCIS questioning that Gallagher stabbed the fighter: “No — why would he do this… there was no need for this [making ticking noise with his tongue/teeth and shaking his head]. (This is common when an Iraqi is emphatic about his answer),” the agent wrote.
“He died from gunshot wounds,” Abbas added, according to the report. “If I wanted to kill someone, I wouldn’t do it in front of witnesses; there were 20 plus people out there, including several Iraqi officers. He would never do that. The ISIS member died, and then we [ERD] left the area, leaving the dead body behind, due to having to be somewhere else.”
Prosecutors allege Gallagher stabbed the fighter soon after he and his fellow SEALs began giving him medical treatment. Afterward, Gallagher allegedly posed for photos and conducted a reenlistment ceremony near the corpse.
In one photo described by Agent Warpinski on Wednesday, the SEAL Chief held up the dead fighter’s head, still attached to the body, with one hand while holding a knife in the other. A second photo showed a Gallagher in a similar pose but zoomed out, with two other SEALs in the background. The third showed him holding the fighter’s head by his hair, which Warpinski said was apparently right after the reenlistment ceremony.
Gallagher has also been charged with firing indiscriminately on civilians, drug possession, and obstruction of justice. A second SEAL, Lt. Jacob Portier, has been charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the Gallagher case, according to Carl Prine at Navy Times.
Abbas told the NCIS investigator he was not aware of claims Gallagher fired indiscriminately on civilians.
Naval Special Warfare Command declined to comment, citing an ongoing Article 32 investigation. In a previous statement, Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence told Task & Purpose: “The Article 32 was conducted by a senior, independent Judge Advocate who will review the evidence and make recommendations on whether there is probable cause to proceed to a court martial. This is a preliminary but essential part of the Military Justice system to ensure the evidence is evaluated objectively while protecting the rights of SOC Gallagher. This is a process we all swore an oath to support and defend, and we are committed to its integrity.”
Prosecutors have recommended a general court martial for Gallagher. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.