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How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guards

Abood, a short, stocky man who speaks halting English, said he learned from the Justice Ministry that snipers from a U.S. security company -- not insurgents -- had shot the guards. He drove in a Humvee with one of his lieutenants to the ministry. The Blackwater guards were gathered in the traffic circle, he said, preparing to leave. Most were stocky, with goatees and small communication devices in their ears.

"I told them, 'I want to speak with the guy who is in charge of this unit,' " he said.

The Blackwater guards started toying with him, Abood said.

"He's in charge," said one, pointing at one of his colleagues.

"No, he's in charge," said another.

"They didn't care what I was saying," Abood said.

Abood said he spotted an American who appeared to be the diplomat being escorted by Blackwater. The man was young, perhaps in his 30s, and wore a navy blue sport coat, a tie and a combat helmet, Abood said. He tried to approach the diplomat, but the Blackwater guards stood in his way, he said.

Abood said he spoke to another Blackwater guard. "I introduced myself in English, but he didn't even look at me," he said. "I told him there are two people dead up there. He told me, 'Wait by this guy.' Then that guy told me to wait by another guy."

Abood said he was still waiting when the Blackwater guards climbed inside their vehicles, set off smoke grenades in the circle and sped away in a green-and-orange cloud toward the Green Zone.

Security contractors are instructed to leave the scene of a shooting as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of the person under their protection, according to the diplomatic security official. The Blackwater team followed standard operating procedures, the official said.

'Abu Sajad Is Dead'

Pandemonium had broken out inside the media network compound. Hundreds of employees were locked down inside the buildings, afraid of more shooting. A leader of the guard team, Thair Salaam, tried to assemble his men. He noticed that one was missing: a 40-year-old armorer named Sabah Salman, also known as Abu Sajad.

"We couldn't find him, no one could find him," Salaam said. "Then suddenly we got a call: 'Abu Sajad is dead.' That was more than an hour after the first shooting."

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