Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blackwater guards fired unprovoked: Iraq police evidence

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Iraqi investigators have evidence that US private guards fired unprovoked on Iraqis in a deadly Baghdad shoot-out, a magazine said Sunday, citing a police report countering claims that they shot in self-defense.

A convoy of the Blackwater private security firm's vehicles "opened fire crazily and randomly, without any reason," Newsweek reported, quoting from the report which it said Iraq's national police have presented to US officials.

Evidence obtained from the police, including witness statements and video footage, contradicts Blackwater's account of the shooting in which 10 Iraqis were killed on September 16, it said in its Monday edition.

The firm insists its guards were shot at first and were threatened by a suspicious vehicle that refused to stop.

But Newsweek quoted officers including the lead Iraqi police investigator Faris Saadi Abdul, and the commander of the Iraqi National Police, Hussein Al-Awadi, as saying that the contractors fired without provocation.

A police video published online by the magazine showed the scene after the clash on Baghdad's Nisoor square: a smoking car with charred human remains and riddled with bullet holes, and spent gun cartridges scattered on the ground.

Iraqi police investigators also believe Blackwater fired on cars and civilians from helicopters overhead, it said, citing police documents and its own interviews with officers. The video shows a chopper similar to those used by Blackwater hovering near the scene.

Blackwater has denied its guards in the helicopters opened fire.........

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