Baghdad: Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on September 16, according to a report compiled by the first US soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.
"It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting," said Lt Col Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.
His soldiers' report - based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police - concluded that there was "no enemy activity involved" and described the shootings as a "criminal event." Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.
The soldiers' accounts contradict Blackwater's assertion that its guards were defending themselves after being fired upon by Iraqi police and gunmen.
Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation.
"I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon," said Tarsa.
He also said it appeared several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.
In Washington on Thursday, an injured Iraqi man and the families of three Iraqi civilians who were killed in the September 16 shootings sued the company in federal court, calling the incident a "massacre" and "senseless slaughter" that was the result of corporate policies in the war zone.
Attorneys for Talib Mutlaq Deewan, who was injured in the shootings, and the families of Himoud Saed Atban, Usama Fadhil Abbass and Uday Esmail Ebrahim, who were killed, filed the lawsuit in US District Court for the District of Columbia, asking for unspecified damages to compensate for alleged war crimes, illegal killings, wrongful death, emotional distress and negligence.