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Wednesday, April 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Blackwater Accused of War Crimes in 2007 Nisoor Square Shootings

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Blackwater faces a federal lawsuit brought by survivors and victims of the 2007 shootings in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that spurred the U.S. prosecution of five Blackwater mercenaries. "The Xe-Blackwater shooters knew they were killing innocents, not using the most minimal force necessary to defend themselves from insurgents," the plaintiffs claim. Blackwater is now known as Xe.

On Sept. 16, 2007, heavily armed Xe-Blackwater mercenaries opened fire without justification in a traffic circle known as Nisoor Square, according to the plaintiffs. They say the massacre "is one episode in a lengthy pattern of egregious misconduct by Xe-Blackwater acting in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world."

"Xe-Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees," the lawsuit claims, "encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life."

The Blackwater guards accused of gunning down civilians are Paul Alvin Slough, Nicolas Abram Slatten, Evan Shawn Liberty, Dustin Laurent Heard, Donald Wayne Ball and Jeremy P. Ridgeway.

Ridgeway pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. According to the lawsuit, Ridgeway admitted that the shooters, ignoring orders to return to the International Zone, rode four heavily armed trucks into Nisoor Square, where they "blockaded peaceful civilian traffic and opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers for no reason."

The five remaining guards surrendered to the FBI in Salt Lake City on Dec. 8, 2008 to face charges in a 35-count federal grand jury indictment.

According to the civil lawsuit, victims include:

- a 19-year-old man killed by shooters

- a 12-year-old killed while riding in a car with his father, who was also killed; the boy's mother was injured

- a 55-year-old mother shot in the head while riding a bus with her 28-year-old daughter, also a plaintiff

- a 24-year-old man shot multiple times as he tried to leave a bus and run to safety

- a 52-year-old man shot multiple times in the leg

- a 30-year-old man shot in the head

- a 19-year-old man shot multiple times in the leg while riding a bus, and his father, 56, who was also shot at

- two police officers, whose hand signals indicating a lack of threat were ignored

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages "in an amount sufficient to strip Defendants of all of the revenue and profits earned from their pattern of constant misconduct and callous disregard for human life," the lawsuit states.

They are represented by the firms Oliva & Associates, Burke O'Neil and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Defendants are Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center; Falcon; Blackwater Security Consulting; Blackwater Armor and Targets; Blackwater Airships; Blackwater Logistics; Raven Development Group; Greystone Limited Total Intelligence Solutions; The Prince Group; EP Investments; U.S. Training Center; U.S. Training Center Southwest; and Xe-Blackwater owner Erik Prince.

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