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How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guards

Guards found Salman's body on the balcony. He had been shot in the side. Salaam said he believed Salman was shot by a sniper while trying to retrieve Hadi's weapon.

"He went up there without a gun," Salaam said. "I don't know why they shot him."

Salman, like the two other guards, was poor, his colleagues said. He had taken responsibility for a second family after his brother was killed during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. He helped support 17 children, including eight of his own. Salman was diabetic and often sick, according to fellow guard Mohammed Adel Ali.

He and the other guards earned 285,000 Iraqi dinars a month, about $231. That was less than half of what Blackwater security guards earn in a day.

Jasim, the Iraqi Media Network deputy director, said the company was uncertain where to turn.

The Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Iraq police and an Iraqi Media Network internal investigation identified Blackwater's involvement in the shootings.

"On Feb. 7, members of Blackwater opened fire from the roof of the Ministry of Justice building, intentionally and without any provocation, shooting three members of our security team which led to their deaths while they were on duty inside the network complex," the Iraqi Media Network report concluded.

A Salihiya police investigator, misspelling Blackwater, wrote: "By collecting information and questioning the Ministry of Justice guards, it became clear that the armed personnel, who came to the Ministry of Justice, who were using special security vehicles and caused the incident and killed guards of the Iraqi Media Network, they are working with the company of BlackRwatey for special security."

"But these people were not well known to us," Jasim said. "We don't know where they are located or who they report to. Are they at the Green Zone, at the airport? We don't know how to contact them."

Abbas, the news director, said he called a U.S. military official, who told him that the military had no information about the incident.

Follow-up investigations can be difficult in a war zone environment, the diplomatic security official said. "The State Department investigates security contractor incident scenes except when to do so would endanger the lives of the investigators," he said, adding that he was not specifically addressing the Feb. 7 incident.

The network gave the families of each of the victims 1 million dinars, or about $812, to assist with burial. The network then hired one member from each family to make up for the lost income.

The diplomatic security official said the U.S. government offered no compensation because the investigation concluded that the Blackwater guards fired in self-defense. "It is the State Department policy to offer ex gratia condolence payments when innocent civilians have been hurt," he said. "In this case, the investigation determined that the security detail had been fired upon, and therefore the issue of payments did not arise."

Rahdi, the legal adviser, said the company had hoped to recover more money for the families by suing Blackwater. But he said CPA Order 17, the law granting contractors immunity, made it impossible.

"I'm talking to you from my point of view as someone representing the law," Rahdi said. "Even if I go to the U.S. ambassador, even if I go to Bush, they go by the law. If there is no law to go after them -- what are they going to do?"

"America doesn't need more enemies in Iraq," he added. "When someone loses one of his relatives, or one of his friends who gets killed by an American and that American is protected -- untouchable -- because of a law that was set by an American, this definitely will create new enemies for the United States."

Jasim said he is still hopeful that Blackwater or the U.S. government will provide assistance.

"Those three people were killed in cold blood," he said. "They have families to support. They should at least forward a letter of apology so we can give that to their relatives. That would give them some relief."

Special correspondent Naseer Nouri in Baghdad and staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.


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