Was Blackwater responsible for 10 civilian deaths?

October 22nd, 2010  |  by Chris Woods and Lucy Keating | Bureau of Investigative Journalism

After killing 17 civilians in the centre of Baghdad, Blackwater became the most infamous private security company operating in Iraq. And now the war logs provide further details of Blackwater personnel allegedly firing on, and killing, civilians.
The security firm gained notoriety after it opened fire on unarmed civilians on September 16 2007 at Nisour Square in Baghdad.
The Nisour massacre
Witnesses said the guards launched an indiscriminate attack. Guns were fired and grenades launched, resulting in the deaths of 17 people and the wounding of 18 others. The youngest victim was a nine-year-old boy.

Now, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has uncovered 14 other cases in the war logs, where it was reported that Blackwater allegedly opened fire on civilians, killing ten and wounding seven. Many of these incidents occurred before Nisour Square and some happened when the security company was escorting US diplomats, a service for which it received more than $465m.
A forensic examination of the 14 cases unearthed reveals allegations that, in one third, Blackwater guards fired on civilians while US officials were under their protection.
Related article: Civilians gunned down at checkpoints
Disregard for civilians
Two years before Nisour Square, on May 14 2005, the logs allege that Blackwater shot at a civilian car. The shooting reportedly killed the driver, but also injured his wife and child. According to the logs, the Blackwater guards drove on.
A year later, on May 2 2006, the logs claim that Blackwater guards opened fire on an ambulance attending the scene of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack. Again, a civilian – the ambulance driver – was killed.
There are other cases where Blackwater guards were alleged to have shown disregard even for their own lives. On one occasion, US troops set up a road block after a car was seen dropping what looked like an IED. A Blackwater convoy ignored them, rushing past and detonating the bomb.
Feb 26 2007
While setting up the northern cordon site a Blackwater convoy bypassed heading south disregarding annihilator ed 3’ vehicle that was in the way. Convoy was struck by IED and did not appear to take any or significant damage.
Protests over Blackwater
In Iraq, outrage at Blackwater’s methods grew. A report dated February 2006 alleges that a Blackwater vehicle escorting US diplomats through Kirkuk had broken down and that guards opened fire on an approaching taxi, killing both civilian occupants.
The US Army report details how residents took to the streets in protest. Only after discussions with Iraqi security forces and local politicians, and the promise of a US State Department investigation, did the crowds disperse.

Ordered out of Iraq
Following the revelations around the Nisour massacre, the Iraqi government demanded that Blackwater leave the country. But although the US government adopted new regulations for its contractors, it ignored the demands to banish Blackwater and even renewed its contract.
The company only lost immunity from prosecution in Iraq in 2009.
In December of the same year, a US court acquitted the five Blackwater employees accused of being involved in the Nisour Square incident of 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter.
Related article: Timeline of the Iraq war
Today,  Blackwater, re-branded Xe Services, holds the largest number of US government security contracts in Afghanistan.

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