Posted by: Tony Carson | 5 October, 2007

The story of the Blackwater killings

03Firefight 2.650

Haider and Mariam Ahmed lost their mother and older brother in the shooting involving guards for Blackwater USA.

This, from the NY Times From Errand to Fatal Shot to Hail of Fire to 17 Deaths

It started out as a family errand: Ahmed Haithem Ahmed was driving his mother, Mohassin, to pick up his father from the hospital where he worked as a pathologist. As they approached Nisour Square at midday on Sept. 16, they did not know that a bomb had gone off nearby or that a convoy of four armored vehicles carrying Blackwater guards armed with automatic rifles was approaching.

Moments later a bullet tore through Mr. Ahmed’s head, he slumped, and the car rolled forward. Then Blackwater guards responded with a barrage of gunfire and explosive weapons, leaving 17 dead and 24 wounded — a higher toll than previously thought, according to Iraqi investigators.

Interviews with 12 Iraqi witnesses, several Iraqi investigators and an American official familiar with an American investigation of the shootings offer new insights into the gravity of the episode in Nisour Square. And they are difficult to square with the explanation offered initially by Blackwater officials that their guards were responding proportionately to an attack on the streets around the square.

The new details include these:

¶A deadly cascade of events began when a single bullet apparently fired by a Blackwater guard killed an Iraqi man whose weight probably remained on the accelerator and propelled the car forward as the passenger, the man’s mother, clutched him and screamed.

¶The car continued to roll toward the convoy, which responded with an intense barrage of gunfire in several directions, striking Iraqis who were desperately trying to flee.

¶Minutes after that shooting stopped, a Blackwater convoy — possibly the same one — moved north from the square and opened fire on another line of traffic a few hundred yards away, in a previously unreported separate shooting, investigators and several witnesses say.

But questions emerge from accounts of the earliest moments of the shooting in Nisour Square.

The car in which the first people were killed did not begin to closely approach the Blackwater convoy until the Iraqi driver had been shot in the head and lost control of his vehicle. Not one witness heard or saw any gunfire coming from Iraqis around the square. And following a short initial burst of bullets, the Blackwater guards unleashed an overwhelming barrage of gunfire even as Iraqis were turning their cars around and attempting to flee.

As the gunfire continued, at least one of the Blackwater guards began screaming, “No! No! No!” and gesturing to his colleagues to stop shooting, according to an Iraqi lawyer who was stuck in traffic and was shot in the back as he tried to flee. The account of the struggle among the Blackwater guards corroborates preliminary findings of the American investigation.

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