Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Evidence That Blackwater Guards Took No Fire

Michael Kamber for The New York Times

The view on Friday of Nisour Square in Baghdad from the roof at the southwest corner. On Sept. 16, Blackwater vehicles were on the south side of the square, at the lower right.

Published: October 13, 2007

This article was reported by James Glanz, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Michael Kamber and written by Mr. Glanz.

BAGHDAD, Oct. 12 — Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month, given by three rooftop witnesses and by American soldiers who arrived shortly after the gunfire ended, cast new doubt Friday on statements by Blackwater guards that they were responding to armed insurgents when Iraqi investigators say 17 Iraqis were killed at a Baghdad intersection.

The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.

The Kurdish witnesses are important because they had the advantage of an unobstructed view and because, collectively, they observed the shooting at Nisour Square from start to finish, free from the terror and confusion that might have clouded accounts of witnesses at street level. Moreover, because they are pro-American, their accounts have a credibility not always extended to Iraqi Arabs, who have been more hostile to the American presence.

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