The Iraqi government was complicit in a deadly attack on a camp for unarmed Iranian dissidents north of Baghdad on Sept. 1 in which gunmen appeared to have used U.S. weapons, according to an investigation led by a Washington-based human rights lawyer.
The report was released to coincide with a visit to Washington by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who will meet with President Obama on Friday at the White House.
“Literally, the exact people we trained and the weapons we provided them were used to commit crimes against humanity in Iraq,” said Jared Genser, managing director of Perseus Strategies and the report’s lead investigator.
“There is not a shred of evidence that anyone other than the government of Iraq was involved” in the attack, he added.
The assault on Camp Ashraf, a former paramilitary base of the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen-e-Khalq, left 52 residents dead of gunshot wounds to their heads and necks.
Some of the victims were handcuffed before they were executed, and seven others were taken hostage.
A senior U.S. official said Washington has no evidence that the Iraqi government had a hand in the attack.
“We’ve also looked at this very, very, very closely, and we have no credible information to date that the Iraqi government was in any way involved in the reprehensible attack at Camp Ashraf,” the senior U.S. official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The report’s conclusions are based on photographs of the scene of the attack and unexploded ordnance. The investigators did not travel to Iraq, and the Iraqi government did not respond to their request for information.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Thomas Cantwell, who served as the first U.S. commander of Camp Ashraf, said a study of videos of the attackers showed they were using tactical maneuvers that appeared to be of American origin.
“That’s why we conclude that the personnel were trained by American trainers and they are using equipment that is similar to that issued to Iraqi security forces,” he said.
The report is based on interviews conducted over Skype computer calls with all 42 survivors at Camp Ashraf, information provided by three former U.S. Army commanders of Camp Ashraf, including retired Col. Cantwell, and news reports on the attack.
A second U.S. official, who also spoke on background, disputed the claim that U.S. weapons were used in the attack.
The al-Maliki government has denied responsibility for the attack.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly urged the Iraqi government to investigate the attack and hold the perpetrators accountable, said U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.
An Iraqi Embassy spokesman in Washington did not comment for this article.
In his meeting with Mr. Obama, the Iraqi leader is expected to seek more U.S. weapons to combat a rising tide of al Qaeda-inspired extremism that has rocked his country since early this year.
Meanwhile, 45 members of the House of Representatives urged Mr. Obama to reduce weapons sales to the Iraqi government until it does all it can to secure the release of the seven Iranian dissidents being held and takes steps to protect the remaining residents of Camp Liberty, a temporary home for the dissidents near Baghdad’s International Airport.
Bernadette Meehan, a White House National Security Council spokeswoman, ruled out decreasing arms assistance to Iraq, which she described as an “essential partner” of the U.S. in the fight against a “common enemy.”