Courts & Crime

Fatal shootings of 14 Iraqis came after Blackwater was put on notice

Federal authorities had warned Blackwater that its private security employees had committed violent acts against innocent Iraqi civilians long before a 2007 shooting incident that killed at least 14 people, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Wake County.

The Charlotte law firm Lewis & Roberts is representing the families of several Iraqi civilians killed or injured, including 9-year-old Ali Kinani, who was fatally shot in the head as his father drove near a roadblock.

The suit contains new details about the Sept. 16, 2007, shootings in Nisoor Square in Baghdad. The incident strained U.S.-Iraqi relations and remains a flashpoint over the use of private contractors in the war.

In December, federal prosecutors announced charges against five guards, who have pleaded not guilty. A sixth guard who was involved has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges.

Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., has said its men did nothing wrong. Attorneys for the guards have said they did not discharge their weapons with criminal intent and thought they were under attack.

Blackwater deployed guards to Iraq after winning lucrative contracts to provide security for U.S. officials. The company, which has not been charged, has come under pressure recently for its ties to the CIA and a covert assassination program.

Now, the Charlotte attorneys are claiming that Blackwater — now known as Xe Services — failed to take action earlier against its employees, before the Nisoor Square incident.

To read the complete article, visit www.charlotteobserver.com.

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