Here, a Facilities Protection Service officer examined the paperwork granting us permission to film at the complex. The Facilities Protection Service (FPS) is a guard force that works for each ministry; since the Ministry of Health is run by a supporter of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Ministry of Health Facilities Protection Service is known to be thoroughly infiltrated by militiamen from Sadr's Mahdi Army.
The FPS officer glanced at my paperwork, told me to leave my crew at the checkpoint and to follow him inside. There I met with a commander of the morgue's FPS platoon, a short man dressed in civilian clothes. He made a phone call to a higher-ranking official and said it was okay for us to film.
As I was walking back outside, gunfire erupted all around us. It turns out the Ministry of Health FPS had gotten into a firefight with nearby FPS officers from the Ministry of Electricity, which is not run by a al-Sadr supporter. Unfortunately, my crew was caught in the middle.
With bullets crackling overhead, I yelled at my crew to run towards me and take cover behind a concrete barricade. The Ministry of Health FPS also took cover behind our barricade and continued to fire at the Electricity FPS officers about 100 feet away.
One of the Health FPS officers near us was furiously firing a PKC machinegun and yelling, "I will kill every one of them. I will kill every one of those Sunni bastards."
For two or three minutes, the firing was intense, mainly by the officer with the machinegun. A crowd of 40 or so people, who had come to the morgue to recover the bodies of loved ones, were also caught up in the middle of all of this. Most dove to the ground, while others ran away.
While we were hiding behind the barricade, one of the Ministry of Health FPS officers ran up to my camera man and demanded that he hand over his videotape. It was made clear that we were not to do any further filming of the incident.
What a fucking cruel farce.