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Thursday, October 04, 2007

 

Deaths at Nisoor Square, Baghdad

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Since the shootings by employees of Blackwater USA, a private securities firm under contract to the U.S. Department of State, and deaths of Iraqi civilians on September 16th at Nisoor Square, there have been hundreds of reports about what took place. Iraqi witnesses claim that Blackwater guards indiscriminately fired at people in the square; Blackwater USA maintains that its employees shot only after being attacked.

The article by Sudarsan Raghavan in today's Post is the best account I have read about the carnage at Nisoor Square and its impact on Iraqis, especially those who lost their family members on that day in September.

Excerpts: Washington Post 10-4-2007




The victims were as young as 11 and as old as 55, according to hospital records. They were middle class and poor. They included college students, day laborers and professionals vital to rebuilding Iraq. There was a mother and her daughter. The daughter lived. There was a taxi driver, only 25, who was the sole provider for his parents and seven siblings. He died.

Blackwater guards say they were ambushed and shot at by Iraqi policemen and civilians. Ten eyewitnesses and Iraqi police officials insisted in interviews that the guards opened fire in the square, unprovoked, and continued shooting even as civilians fled for their lives. Hospital records show 14 dead and 18 injured, a toll higher than most previous official tallies.

The carnage has sparked outrage and demands to reform the private contractor industry. Almost three weeks later, the collective memory of Iraqis at the scene is raw.

"It was catastrophic. So many innocent people were killed," recalled Zina Fadhil, 21, a pharmacist. That day, she huddled in fear inside her store about 100 yards from the square as Blackwater helicopters hovered above. Like other eyewitnesses, she said she saw Blackwater guards firing down from the helicopters, an allegation the security firm denies.

"I am a peaceful person, but I wished I could have shot those people in the helicopters," Fadhil continued, her soft voice rising.

Not one of the victims or family members interviewed had been aware that Blackwater was immune to prosecution in Iraq under an order by U.S. administrators after the 2003 invasion.

"Why is the blood of Iraqis so free for everyone to spill?" asked Sahib Nasr, the father of one of the victims.

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