Survivor Recalls Blackwater Shootings
Friday, September 21, 2007; 2:40 AM
BAGHDAD -- Lawyer Hassan Jabir was stuck in traffic when he heard Blackwater USA security contractors shout "Go, Go, Go." Moments later bullets pierced his back, he said Thursday from his hospital bed.
Jabir was among about a dozen people wounded Sunday during the shooting in west Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Iraqi police say at least 11 people were killed.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the shooting as a "crime" by Blackwater, a N.C.-based company that guards American diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq.
"No one fired at them," Jabir said of the Blackwater guards. "No one attacked them but they randomly fired at people. So many people died in the street."
Blackwater's operations have been suspended pending completion of a joint U.S.-Iraqi investigation. In the meantime, most U.S. diplomats and civilian officials are confined to the Green Zone or U.S. military bases unless they can travel by helicopter.
As Jabir posed for photographers in Yarmouk Hospital, an Interior Ministry official came by to register his name as a victim in connection with the investigation.
Jabir's account is among several versions which the investigators hope to reconcile. Blackwater insists that its employees came under fire from armed insurgents and shot back to protect State Department employees.
The New York Times reported in its Friday editions that the Iraqi government has concluded the Blackwater guards weren't fired upon and that the shooting was unprovoked.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry report stated that "the Blackwater company is considered 100 percent guilty through this investigation," according to the Times. The document also recommends the dozens of foreign security companies in the country be replaced by Iraqi companies, their immunity lifted, and that Blackwater pay compensation to the families of the victims.
A U.S. official in Washington who's familiar with information collected by investigators said the accounts given by witnesses are widely different. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is not over.
Jabir, whose left arm and chest were bandaged, said he was driving toward the Ministry of Justice when he found the road clogged with traffic. He saw several armored vehicles with armed guards on the roofs parked ahead of the traffic jam. Three black SUVs were behind them.
"After 20 minutes, the Americans told us to turn back," he said. "They shouted 'Go' 'Go' 'Go.'... When we started turning back, the Americans began shooting heavily at us. The traffic policeman was the first person killed."