US federal grand jury probing Blackwater Iraqi civilian shootings: ABC News
US federal grand jury probing Blackwater Iraqi civilian shootings: ABC

[JURIST] A US federal grand jury has opened an investigation into Blackwater USA [corporate website] employees involved in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians during a September 16 incident [JURIST report] that took place in West Baghdad, ABC News reported Monday. Several Blackwater guards have been subpoenaed to testify, though none of those called to testify were the guards who allegedly fired on civilians. Five Blackwater employees have reportedly admitted firing their weapons, while 12 others said they only witnessed events on September 16. The investigation is reportedly focused on a turret gunner who said he fired in response to small arms fire from a nearby vehicle. Last week, the US Justice Department said it had not yet decided whether it will file criminal charges [JURIST report] against the Blackwater guards involved in the incident following reports by the New York Times and the Washington Post that an FBI investigation had concluded and determined that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report]. In an interview last month, Blackwater's owner said that he had not seen evidence to support that his employees acted improperly [JURIST report].

The Blackwater allegations have caused domestic outrage in Iraq and have prompted legal controversy in the US. Iraqi government investigators probing the killings have concluded that the Blackwater security detail's actions were unprovoked, and amounted to "deliberate murder" [JURIST report]. Last month, the Iraqi cabinet approved a draft law [JURIST reports] that would strip foreign security contractors of immunity from Iraqi prosecution. The US House has passed a bill that would expand US jurisdiction over the same private contractors [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.