nisour square update: blackwater massacre

Blackwater Shooting Scene Was Chaotic   Click Here for the Blackwater Slideshow.  from ABC

Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

At least eight Iraqis were killed in a shooting involving Blackwater private security officers in Nisour Square on Sept. 16

By JAMES GLANZ and SABRINA TAVERNISE

Published: September 28, 2007

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 — Participants in a contentious Baghdad security operation this month have told American investigators that during the operation at least one guard continued firing on civilians while colleagues urgently called for a cease-fire. At least one guard apparently also drew a weapon on a fellow guard who did not stop shooting, an American official said.

The operation, by the private firm Blackwater USA, began as a mission to evacuate senior American officials after an explosion near where they were meeting, several officials said. Some officials have questioned the wisdom of evacuating the Americans from a secure compound, saying the area should instead have been locked down.

These new details of the episode on Sept. 16, in which at least eight Iraqis were killed, including a woman and an infant, were provided by an American official who was briefed on the American investigation by someone who helped conduct it, and by Americans who had spoken directly with two guards involved in the episode. Their accounts were broadly consistent.

A spokeswoman for Blackwater, Anne E. Tyrrell, said she could not confirm any of the details provided by the Americans.

The accounts provided the first glimpse into the official American investigation of the shooting, which has angered Iraqi officials and prompted calls by the Iraqi government to ban Blackwater from working in Iraq, and brought new scrutiny of the widespread use of private security contractors here.

An Iraqi investigation had concluded that the guards shot without provocation. But the official said that the guards told American investigators that they believed that they fired in response to enemy gunfire.

The Blackwater compound, rimmed by concrete blast walls and concertina wire in the Green Zone in central Baghdad, has been under tight control. Participants in the Sept. 16 security operation have been ordered not to speak about the episode. But word of the disagreement on the street has slowly made its way through the community of private security contractors.

The episode began around 11:50 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16. Diplomats with the United States Agency for International Development were meeting in a guarded compound about a mile northwest of Nisour Square, where the shooting would later take place.

USAID US AID DIPLOMATS WERE “HUNDREDS OF YARDS AWAY” WHEN AN IED EXPLODED.  INSTEAD OF REMAINING IN THEIR SECURE COMPOUND, THEY DECIDED TO RETURN TO THE GREEN ZONE BEFORE THE AREA WAS CLEAR, TAKING THEM THROUGH NISOUR SQUARE…………… 

A bomb exploded on the median of a road a few hundred yards away from the meeting, causing no injuries to the Americans, but prompting a fateful decision to evacuate. One American official who knew about the meeting cast doubt on the decision to move the diplomats out of a secure compound.

Bomb goes off near compound where a Blackwater personal security detail was accompanying a US State Department official.

ABC News–Bomb goes off near compound where a Blackwater personal security detail was accompanying a US State Department official.

“It raises the first question of why didn’t they just stay in place, since they are safe in the compound,” the official said. “Usually the concept would be, if an I.E.D. detonates in the street, you would wait 15 to 30 minutes, until things calmed down,” he said, using the abbreviation for improvised explosive device.

But instead of waiting, a Blackwater convoy began carrying the diplomats south, toward the Green Zone. Because their route would pass through Nisour Square, another convoy drove there to block traffic and ensure that the diplomats would be able to pass.

At least four sport utility vehicles stopped in lanes of traffic that were entering the square from the south and west. Some of the guards got out of their vehicles and took positions on the street, according to the official familiar with the report on the American investigation.

At 12:08 p.m., at least one guard began to fire in the direction of a car, killing its driver. A traffic policeman said he walked toward the car, but more shots were fired, killing a woman holding an infant sitting in the passenger seat.

There are three versions of why the shooting started. The Blackwater guards have told investigators that they believed that they were being fired on, the official familiar with the report said. A preliminary Iraqi investigation has concluded that there was no enemy fire, but some Iraqi witnesses have said that Iraqi commandos in nearby guard towers may have been shooting as well, possibly leading Blackwater guards to believe that militants were firing at them.

After the family was shot, a type of grenade or flare was fired into the car, setting it ablaze, according to some accounts. Other Iraqis were also killed as the shooting continued. Iraqi officials have given several death counts, ranging from 8 to 20, with perhaps several dozen wounded. American officials have said that no Americans were hurt.

At some point during the shooting, one or more Blackwater guards called for a cease-fire, according to the American official.

The word cease-fire “was supposedly called out several times,” the official said. “They had an on-site difference of opinion,” he said.

In the end, a Blackwater guard “got on another one about the situation and supposedly pointed a weapon,” the official said.

“That’s what prompted this internal altercation,” the official said.

The official added that in the urgent moment of a shooting events could often become confused, and cautioned against leaping to hasty conclusions about who was to blame.

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5 responses to “nisour square update: blackwater massacre

  1. As the famous American saying goes; “You cant make an omlette without breaking some eggs”.

    Was it self defense or were they just trigger happy?

    Will the US just white wash the incident?

    Will some small low ranking blackwater employees get hung out to dry, while the fat cats and their friends in Washington laugh all the way to the bank?

    All of the above are also relevant questions.

  2. how many people belong to the blackwater corperation and how are they funded?

  3. why do we need them when we have our military over there?

  4. I believe Blackwater currently has at least 20,000 guards over in Iraq, that’s the number I last heard anyways. The number of employees they have is far greater than that, and their employees are not only US citizens, they also hire highly trained guerilla warfare soldiers from South America. Blackwater is funded by government contracts, having made hundreds of millions of dollars already. This government contract money comes from the pockets of US tax payers, meaning you and me. Typically Blackwater guards will make at least three times as much as REAL military personnel, depending on the level of danger involved.

  5. um yeah there are only like 1,000 blackwater contractors in Iraq, and while they do make alot more money witch would you rather do, make around 100 bucks a day to kick in doors, and constantly live in a hostile country or make 650 a day to drive back and fourth along a road. Keep in mine that these men have wives and children, Bills and other major expenses. Read all of the facts before you start Typing.

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