Blackwater Baghdad Shootings
Coordinates: 33°18′08″N 44°21′23″E / 33.30222°N 44.35639°E / 33.30222; 44.35639
On September 16, 2007, seventeen Iraqi civilian fatalities and twenty injuries occurred in the Blackwater Baghdad shootings in Nisour Square, Baghdad. The fatalities occurred while a Blackwater Personal Security Detail (PSD) was clearing the way for a convoy of US State Department vehicles transporting diplomats to a meeting in western Baghdad with officials of the United States Agency for International Development. The killings outraged Iraqis and strained relations between Iraq and Washington.
Blackwater guards said that the convoy was ambushed and that they fired at the attackers in defense of the convoy. The Iraqi government and Iraqi police investigator Faris Saadi Abdul allege that the killings were unprovoked. The next day, Blackwater Worldwide's license to operate in Iraq was temporarily revoked. The US State Department has said that "innocent life was lost" and according to the Washington Post, a military report appeared to corroborate "the Iraqi government's contention that Blackwater was at fault." The Iraqi government vowed to punish Blackwater. The incident sparked at least five investigations, including one from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI investigation found that, of the 17 Iraqis killed by the guards, at least 14 were without cause.
In September 2008 the U.S. charged five Blackwater guards with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and a weapons violation but on December 31, 2009, a U.S. district judge dismissed all charges on the grounds that the case against the Blackwater guards had been improperly built on testimony given in exchange for immunity. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki harshly criticized the dismissal. In April 2011 a US federal appeals court reinstated the manslaughter charges against Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Donald Ball after closed-door testimony. The court said “We find that the district court’s findings depend on an erroneous view of the law,” A fifth guard had his charges dismissed and Jeremy Ridgeway a sixth guard pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. The proceedings against the four guards are ongoing.
On April 1, 2011, the Associated Press reported that the FBI scientists were unable to match bullets from the square to guns carried by the Blackwater guards and investigators found foreign cartridge cases not used by U.S. or Blackwater personnel. As shootings in the square were not uncommon, it is unclear whether the shells were from the shooting in question or from other incidents. On January 6, 2012 Blackwater settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of six of the victims, for an undisclosed sum.