Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blackwater guard gives account of shootout in Iraq

This just in from the Agence France-Presse:

A guard from the US security firm Blackwater says his motorcade came under fire and that he feared for his life in a deadly shootout in Iraq.

Contradicting reports that the Blackwater motorcade in Baghdad did not come under attack in the September 16 incident which left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, the guard alleged he opened fire on a car that drove towards his team and failed to heed warnings to stop.

He said that then, after coming under fire, he shot at a shack behind the approaching car, at a man with an AK-47 rifle pointed at the motorcade, at a bus which was the source of gunfire, and at two other cars deemed as threats.

"As our motorcade pulled into the intersection, I noticed a white four-door sedan driving directly at our motorcade from the west bound lane," he said in his statement.

"I and others were yelling and using hand signals for the car to stop and the driver looked directly at me and kept moving toward our motorcade. Fearing for my life and the lives of my teammates, I engaged the driver and stopped the threat," he said....

Identified only by the first name "Paul," the Blackwater guard recounted the shooting in a sworn statement to State Department investigators three days after the incident, which ABC posted on its website. His account differs dramatically from that of the FBI, which the New York Times reported found in its investigation that 14 of the 17 deaths were unjustified, the New York Times said....

"Paul" insisted the group was shot at after he first fired at the oncoming car. "At the same moment, I started receiving small arms fire from the shack approximately fifty meters behind the car. I then engaged the individuals where the muzzle flashes came from."

When a person in uniform started pushing the car toward the motorcade, the guard said he shouted and shot at the vehicle until it stopped. He then heard on his radio that the motorcade's command vehicle was down, "and that we were still taking fire," he said.

As the command vehicle was towed, he said he saw a man with his AK-47 "oriented" at the rear gunner in a nearby vehicle in the motorcade. "Fearing for the gunner's life, I engaged the individual and stopped the threat."

With gunfire allegedly coming from a red bus stopped at the intersection, he said he opened fire on the shooters. Then when he was told on his radio that gunfire was coming from another car, he fired at the "suspect vehicle" as he again was "fearing for my life."

Later, a red car was backing up towards the motorcade, and the guard -- fearing it was a possible car bombing attack -- again opened fire, he said. "As we were going over the curb, I noticed several civilians and I was motioning, and screaming that they get down and find cover," he said....

The guard said during his time in Iraq he had made "numerous split-second shoot-don't shoot decisions." He said he had passed qualification courses required by the State Department to carry automatic weapons. According to the statement, the man served in the US army in Bosnia between 1992 and 2002 and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. He later left the military and began working for Blackwater in 2006.

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