Blackwater Guards’ Shots Are Not Provoked, Iraq Concludes
Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has concluded that employees of a private American security firm fired an unprovoked barrage in the shooting last Sunday in which at least eight Iraqis were killed and is proposing a radical reshaping of the way American diplomats and contractors here are protected.
In the first comprehensive account of the day’s events, the ministry said that security guards for Blackwater USA, a company that guards all senior American diplomats here, fired on Iraqis in their cars in midday traffic.
The document concludes that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi firms, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped.
Four days after the shooting, American officials said they were still preparing their own forensic analysis of what happened in Nisour Square, and have repeatedly declined to give any details before their work is finished.
Privately, those officials have warned against drawing hasty conclusions, until American investigators have finished interviewing the Blackwater guards. In the Interior Ministry account — made available to The New York Times on Thursday — Iraqi investigators interviewed many witnesses but relied on the testimonies of the people they considered to be the four most credible.
The account says that as soon as the guards took positions in four locations in the square, they began shooting south, killing a driver who had failed to heed a traffic policeman’s call to stop.
“The Blackwater company is considered 100 percent guilty through this investigation,” the report concludes.
The shooting enraged Iraqis, in part because they feel powerless to bring the companies to account.
“What happened in Al Nisour was that citizens felt their dignity was destroyed,” Jawad al-Bolani, Iraq’s interior minister, said in an interview. The Iraqi “looks at the state and wonders if it can bring him back his rights.”
“It’s important that the company show its respect to the law and Iraqi law,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “Iraqi citizens need to see good treatment, especially when they operate on Iraqi soil.”
And while Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki has demanded that the State Department drop Blackwater as its protector, security industry experts say that such an outcome is highly unlikely because American officials rely heavily on the company, setting the two sides on a diplomatic collision course.
The Iraqi version of events may be self-serving in some points. The ministry report states that no Iraqis fired at the Blackwater guards, even though several witnesses in recent days have said that Iraqi commandos in a watchtower did. Blackwater, in its first and only statement, said militants had ambushed its guards.
If the accounts of Iraqi gunfire from the tower are accurate, a central question is when the Iraqis in the tower began to shoot.