Video: Haliburton convoy attacked in Iraq

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updated 9/28/2006 3:45:53 PM ET 2006-09-28T19:45:53

Sept. 20, 2005: What begins as a routine convoy, led by a U.S. military escort, takes a wrong turn into an area controlled by insurgents. Preston Wheeler, a truck driver employed by Halliburton in Iraq, brought along his video camera that day.

First, the convoy gets hit by rocks. Minutes later, gunfire erupts and bombs explode.

"IED on the left side!" shouts someone on the video.

"Help us, oh, Lord," adds another.

One of the truckers is hit. A soldier tells the truckers not to stop.

"Truck 5 cannot move," Wheeler says on the video. "Please help me."

"OK, where [sic] you at? Where you at?" is the soldier's reply.

"I am taking fire, 10-4?" shouts Wheeler. "Come back, I'm fixing to get killed!"

Wheeler sees a fellow driver killed. In all, three drivers are killed and Wheeler is shot twice.

Wheeler charges that Halliburton did not properly equip the convoy or train its workers. Halliburton acknowledges that the attack occurred, but says the convoy was under the control of the U.S. military. The company also says employees receive extensive training and their safety and security is a priority.

U.S. military officials stress that in the video, Wheeler is describing the experience from his perspective alone, and that it provides an incomplete picture of all that took place.

A military investigation into the attack on the KBR convoy found that the military escorts responded appropriately to the insurgent attack.

"Once the shooting started, the soldiers in the lead Humvees followed established military procedures to move out of the kill zone," concludes the investigation.

According to the report: Once clear of the kill zone, the two Humvees in the lead circled back to set up a "perimeter" and "lay down suppressing fire" against the insurgents. They also arranged for the evacuation of three U.S. soldiers and one KBR employee who had been wounded but managed to drive out of the kill zone. The soldiers also placed an immediate call for a U.S. military Quick Reaction Force and air cover.

The report states that the firefight lasted at least 35 minutes. During that time the soldiers took small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and grenades.

Two U.S. helicopter gunships arrived within 20 minutes after the initial enemy contact. It's not clear whether the helicopters actually fired, but the military investigation indicates their mere presence reduced the amount of enemy fire. The Quick Reaction Force arrived 35 minutes after the first contact.

U.S. military officials say their investigation disputes the claim that the military escorts had abandoned the KBR employees. "They (soldiers) never left." According to the officials, the video does not reveal the Humvees that established perimeters beyond the front and rear of the convoy.

The military officials say the suppressive fire laid down by the soldiers kept the two wounded KBR employees alive.

"If they had been abandoned, they would not have survived," says one official.

The investigation did reveal an error in the convoy route map, and the U.S. military says it was corrected within a week.

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