Four Say Mercenaries 'Killed Iraqis as Sport'


     ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - Four Iraqi shopowners shot by a Blackwater mercenary say Blackwater founder Erik Prince rewarded and promoted employees who "killed Iraqis as sport" and approved of top executives who bragged about "laying Hajjis out on cardboard."      It's the latest in a slew of lawsuits accusing the founder of Blackwater, now known as Xe, of condoning brutality and murder.
     In their federal complaint, three members of the Al Sa'adi family and a fourth man say Prince is directly responsible for their injuries as well as the cruel and random killing of other innocent Iraqi citizens. The Al Sa'adis say they were assaulted and shot by Prince's mercenaries on Sept. 9, 2007.
     Adil Shikhayiss, 37, says he was shot in the leg.
     Mahdi Al Sa'adi, 35, says he was shot in the head.
     Ammar Sa'Adi, 33, says he was "assaulted by gunfire" and Ali Al Sa'adi says he was assaulted. All four say they operated and owned a shop that was "seriously damaged" by the gunfire.
     The complaint accuses Prince of encouraging senseless violence against innocent civilians by rewarding soldiers who "killed Iraqis as sport." Such soldiers "tended to rise higher" in Prince's empire, according to the complaint.
Prince "directly and personally supervises the conduct of his employees in Iraq by means of 24-hour remote monitoring using sophisticated technology," according to the complaint. "This monitoring is done in what is referred to as the 'war room' located in Moyock, North Carolina. Most of Mr. Prince's employees are wholly unaware of this real-time monitoring."
They claim that "On or about September 9, 2007, one of Mr. Prince's employees, a man named Evan Liberty, drove through the streets of Baghdad firing an automatic weapon from a port hole of an armored Blackwater vehicle. Mr. Liberty fired without reason, and fired without regard for who might be struck by the rounds.
"Plaintiffs were among those damaged struck by Mr. Liberty's wanton shooting. Other victims have filed suit in this District."
The complaint adds: "Mr. Prince personally intended that his private army of men kill and wound innocent Iraqis, including plaintiffs here.
"Not all men employed by Mr. Prince participated in this private army intent on killing innocent Iraqis, but a substantial number did so. Those who killed and wounded innocent Iraqis tended to rise higher in Mr. Prince's organization than those who abided by the rule of law.
"Mr. Prince was well aware that his men, including his top executives in Moyock,
North Carolina, viewed shooting innocent Iraqis as sport."
     Prince also approved of his top executives bragging about "laying Hajjis out on cardboard" and their collective role in "killing those of Islamic faith," according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs also complain of "night hunting," in which Prince's mercenaries use night-vision goggles to shoot people at random from Prince's privately owned helicopters after 10 p.m.
     The men say Prince knew or should have known all this was happening. They also say Prince or his employees destroyed videographic and documentary evidence.
     They accuse Prince of racketeering, war crimes, assault and battery, and destroying evidence. They seek compensatory damages and "punitive damages in an amount to strip Mr. Prince of the substantial revenue he earned from his pattern of constant misconduct and callous disregard for human life."
     Prince, of McLean, Va., is the only defendant. The plaintiffs are represented by Susan Burke with Burke O'Neil.