Monday, October 08, 2007

Blackwater guards shot Iraqis without provocation, report says

Peter Walker and agencies
Monday October 8, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Members of Blackwater scan Baghdad from their helicopter
Members of Blackwater flying over Baghdad. Photograph: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty

Guards from the US security firm Blackwater had not been shot at before they opened fire last month on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, killing 17 people, according to an official Iraqi investigation into the deaths.

The inquiry, ordered by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, described the incident as a deliberate crime and called for those responsible for the deaths to be prosecuted.

Previously, the death toll from the controversial incident on September 16 had been put at 11.

The shooting prompted a wave of outrage in Iraq about the activities of private US security firms protecting diplomats and workers, and calls for those responsible for the deaths to be tried.

The new investigation said 17 people were killed and 23 wounded when Blackwater staff opened fire in a square in Baghdad.

Blackwater - which has not responded to the latest accusations has said its guards reacted lawfully to an attack on one of its convoys.

An Iraqi government spokesman said yesterday that the investigation had found "no evidence that the Blackwater convoy came under fire directly or indirectly".

"It was not hit even by a stone," he said.

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