Wednesday, September 19, 2007


A preliminary Iraqi report on a shooting involving an American diplomatic motorcade said Tuesday that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.
The report, by the Ministry of Interior, was presented to the Iraqi cabinet and, though unverified, seemed to contradict an account offered by Blackwater USA that the guards were responding to gunfire by militants. The report said Blackwater helicopters had also fired. The Ministry of Defense said 20 Iraqis had been killed, a far higher number than had been reported before.

The above is from Sabrina Tavernise's and James Glanz' "Iraqi Report Says Blackwater Guards Fired First" in this morning's New York Times. The US 'decision' was actually a decided for them. Martha notes this from Joshua Partlow's "Embassy Restricts Diplomats' Iraq Travel" (Washington Post):

The decision effectively halted Blackwater's operations because a main task of the company is to escort diplomats, including Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. Embassy officials did not say whether they were seeking a replacement security company, but any extended suspension of travel could impair diplomats' work in Iraq, limiting their scope of direct influence to the walled Green Zone.
The crisis began Sunday when Blackwater employees guarding a U.S. State Department motorcade opened fire in downtown Baghdad, killing at least nine people and as many as 28, according to Iraqi officials. Several witnesses said in interviews Tuesday that Blackwater guards fired without provocation and indiscriminately.

[. . .]
Traffic police officer Sarhan Dhia, 34, said he was standing under the Iraqi flags next to his white guard shack along the traffic circle when he saw the convoy of at least four armored vehicles approach, traveling against the flow of traffic. He said he jumped out into an intersecting street to prevent cars from entering the circle while the convoy passed. The next thing he knew, he said, gunfire erupted.

More eye witness testimony can be found in Leila Fadel and Laith Hammoudi's "Iraq considers new steps against security companies" (McClatchy Newspapers):

Two survivors of Sunday's shooting at a busy Baghdad traffic roundabout said Tuesday that security guards for a State Department convoy opened fire without provocation, contradicting assertions by the guards' U.S.-based employer, Blackwater USA, that they were responding to enemy fire.
Hassan Jaber Salma, 50, a lawyer who suffered eight gunshot wounds in the incident, said he and other motorists were attempting to clear a path for the convoy when the Blackwater guards suddenly strafed the line of traffic with gunfire.
Sami Hawas Karim, 42, a taxi driver who was shot in the hip and side, said he, too, had stopped for the convoy when he saw the guards suddenly open fire on a car bearing a man, a woman and a small child. The guards then opened fire on maintenance workers in the square, the car in front of him, the car behind him and a minibus full of girls.

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