Saturday, October 13, 2007

More Bad News for Blackwater

In the form of witnesses who were in a position to see the whole incident in Nisoor Square:

The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.

The Kurdish witnesses are important because they had the advantage of an unobstructed view and because, collectively, they observed the shooting at Nisour Square from start to finish, free from the terror and confusion that might have clouded accounts of witnesses at street level. Moreover, because they are pro-American, their accounts have a credibility not always extended to Iraqi Arabs, who have been more hostile to the American presence.

Their statements, made in interviews with The New York Times, appeared to challenge a State Department account that a Blackwater vehicle had been disabled in the shooting and had to be towed away. Since those initial accounts, Blackwater and the State Department have consistently refused to comment on the substance of the case.

The Kurdish witnesses said that they saw no one firing at the guards at any time during the event, an observation corroborated by the forensic evidence of the shell casings. Two of the witnesses also said all the Blackwater vehicles involved in the shooting drove away under their own power.

This, on top of a report by American soldiers who arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting, serve to utterly destroy Blackwater's assertion that it's guards were returing fire on insurgents and Iraqi police (a story that was already completely inconsistent with the reports of civilians involved in the shooting.) All accounts give credence to a version of events in which the contractors moved into the square, were spooked by a car, and simply opened up on cars full of Iraqi civilians.

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