Forensic experts for the FBI cannot match .30-cal. bullets from machine guns used by Blackwater Worldwide mercenaries to the rounds that killed 17 Iraqi civilians in a 2007 attack that inflamed worldwide opinion and led to the company’s ouster as a private security firm for the U.S. government.
While the findings do not specifically clear Blackwater’s hired guns it does raise a possibility that insurgents may have also fired into the intersection.
But while doubts could be raised in this case, Blackwater has been accused of other atrocities while operating as loose cannon government mercenaries in Iraq.
FBI scientists were unable to match bullets from a deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting to guns carried by Blackwater Worldwide security guards, according to laboratory reports that leave open the possibility that insurgents also fired in the crowded intersection.
Five Blackwater guards face manslaughter and weapons charges for their role in the shooting, which left 17 Iraqis dead and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment abroad. Prosecutors say the contractors launched an unprovoked attack on civilians using machine guns and grenade launchers. The guards maintain their convoy was ambushed by insurgents.
The FBI lab reports, obtained by The Associated Press from someone not involved in the criminal case, allow for both possibilities.
Investigators recovered .30-caliber bullets from a survivor, a Blackwater truck and around Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Scientists could not determine whether those bullets came from .30-caliber Blackwater machine guns.
The AK-47 rifles favored by many Iraqi insurgents also fire .30-caliber bullets.
Nobody disputes that Blackwater guards fired, but accounts vary on whether the convoy of armored trucks was attacked. Iraqi witnesses and some members of the Blackwater convoy told authorities they saw no insurgent gunfire. Radio logs show Blackwater guards repeatedly reporting incoming fire during a hectic eight minutes in which one truck was disabled.
The government’s case does not hinge on whether Blackwater was fired on, since prosecutors say the guards violated their rules of engagement even if they did take fire. But any evidence that Blackwater was attacked would help the guards argue they fired in self-defense.