Senior U.S. Military Official Faults Blackwater In The Shooting Of 11 Iraqi Civilians

A senior U.S. military official tells the Washington Post that the Sept. 16 firing incident at Nissor Square involving Blackwater USA was unprovoked and that the 11 civilian victims were unarmed:

It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” said the U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident remains the subject of several investigations. “The civilians that were fired upon, they didn’t have any weapons to fire back at them. And none of the IP (Iraqi Police) or any of the local security forces fired back at them.”

Military reports also “appear to corroborate the Iraqi government’s contention that Blackwater was at fault.

Separately, an Iraqi investigation “recommends that the security guards face trial in Iraqi courts and that the company compensate the victims.” A panel led by the Iraqi Defense Minister said that “Blackwater guards sprayed western Baghdad’s Nisoor Square with gunfire Sept. 16 without provocation.”

ThinkProgress reported on Monday that the FBI has been sent to Baghdad to conduct an investigation at the request of the State Department. Yesterday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack “hinted…that Blackwater guards could face legal proceedings,” and that the FBI investigation was “a hedge against the possibility that an investigation leads to the point where there may need to be a referral” to U.S. prosecutors.

The U.S. Congress is also looking into the matter of private security firms. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted “to bring private security firms in Iraq out of legal limbo” by making security firms stationed in combat zones “subject to action in US courts.” Private contractors have not been subject to prosecution under a directive issued by Paul Bremer, shortly before leaving his post as head of the provisional authority in Iraq.

— Dave de Give

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