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How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guards

Hadi had been living inside the Iraqi Media Network complex because insurgents had threatened to kill him unless he left his state-supported job, according to Mohammed Adel Ali, a friend and fellow guard.

Hadi was dressed in dark-green military camouflage and held an AK-47 assault rifle. On the same balcony, about 20 feet to his left, another network guard manned a belt-fed machine gun. Two guard towers overlooked the network's rear gate, one flying the Iraqi flag. Hadi was positioned below the snipers, who stood about 450 feet away, near a large Iraqi flag on top of the Justice Ministry.

Hadi stood up in response to a commotion that suddenly broke out in the circle, according to several of his fellow guards. The time was between 11 a.m. and noon. "The problem started because some people wanted to park their car there," said one guard, Adel Saadi. "Our guards didn't allow them, because we were worried about car bombs. But they kept insisting."

Hadi yelled at the civilians to move back, according to Ali, who was also nearby. "He was shouting: 'Move away from here. You can't stay here. This is a government building.' While he was shouting, he was holding his gun in a ready position. That's when the sniper shot him."

It remains unclear what precipitated the shooting. The Blackwater guards said they came under fire from the building and responded, the diplomatic security official and the Blackwater spokeswoman said. Hadi's colleagues said he never fired his weapon. Saadi said he heard one shot, looked up and saw Hadi falling.

Saadi and Ali raced up the stairs with several other guards, Ali yelling: "Nabras is hit! Nabras is hit!" The guards said they believed the compound was under attack from insurgents. "We never thought that people would be shooting at us from the Ministry of Justice," said Hussein Abdul Hassan, the guards' chief. "It's a government building. No one would expect it."

The guards crawled toward Hadi, shielded by a three-foot-high wall. The sniper was still firing, they said. "Anyone crawling or walking, he shot at them," Hassan said. At least three bullets lodged in the building's facade. The guards found Hadi in the corner with a bullet through his head.

As they tried to move him, another shot rang out. It struck Azhar Abdullah al-Maliki, 31, another guard. His colleagues said he had raised his head above the low wall and was shot.

The Blackwater guards said they believed they were again under immediate threat and responded with lethal force, the security official said.

Maliki's older brother, Zuhair, said Maliki had taken the job just six weeks earlier. He lived with 21 members of his family, including his wife and three children, in a tiny house in Sadr City, a Baghdad slum.

Maliki slumped to the ground next to Hadi. "People were yelling, 'Azhar, what's wrong?' " Hassan said. "When they went to move him, they saw the blood spurting from his neck."

The guards quickly withdrew, ceding authority to an Iraqi army company that controls the neighborhood, Salihiya. The company commander, Capt. Ahmed Thamir Abood, said he sent soldiers up to the balcony to recover the bodies. Hadi was dead. Maliki was evacuated to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the neck at 2 p.m., according to his death certificate.


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