BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The Iraqi government wants security firm Blackwater to pay $8 million in compensation to each of the families of 17 people killed in a shooting, a senior government source said on Tuesday.
The source said the figure was roughly in line with compensation paid by the Libyan government to the families of the 270 people killed in the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing over Scotland.
“We want them to pay $8 million for each family,” the source told Reuters. “The same level as the compensation for the Lockerbie victims.”
Blackwater had been told of the demand, the source said. It was unclear what the private American firm’s response was.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Sunday an investigation set up by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had found Blackwater “deliberately killed” the 17 people in the September 16 shooting in western Baghdad.
Blackwater employs about 1,000 people in Iraq. Its founder, former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, told a Congressional hearing last week that his men had come under small-arms fire and “returned fire at threatening targets”.
Iz zat right?
Hasan Jaber Salman lies in Yarmouk Hospital, bandages covering gunshot wounds in his back.
Salman says he is a lawyer who was headed from a courthouse to the Ministry of Justice when he found his route blocked by four armored Blackwater SUVs.
The roadblock soon caused a traffic snarl, so armed Blackwater guards began waving at the drivers, telling them to turn around and leave the area.
“So we turned back, and as we turned back they opened fire at all cars from behind,” Salman said. “All my injuries, the bullets are in my back.
“Within two minutes the security force arrived in planes — part of the security company Blackwater. They started firing randomly at all citizens.”
The firm [Blackwater] also said its employees “acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack.”
But Salman claims the attack was unprovoked.
“No one fired at them, they were not attacked by gunmen, they were not targeted by an explosion,” he said. Video Watch the survivors describe what happened.
The firing continued until Salman’s car crashed into a police checkpoint and flipped over, he said, adding that eight bullets struck his car and four struck him.
“My left shoulder is broken … and my arm is broken. I had a surgery. … They opened up my stomach,” he said. “I swear to God no one did anything to them at all.”
Laborer Abul-Raheem Amir said he was on his way to a job when the minibus he was in got caught in a traffic jam caused by an explosion.
“A security company called Blackwater, they got out and kept on firing randomly at people, starting with the people walking or working the street — even the traffic policeman, even the people who work in the area,” Amir said.
“People at first thought we were safe in the minibus, but when they realized they were not, they started getting out and went to other places to save themselves,” he recounted. “Unfortunately that did not work. As they got out, people were shot and killed.”
He said he tried to make a run for it after the driver and two women next to him on the minibus were shot.
“I ran about 50 meters [about 55 yards] and then was shot, the first bullet. Still I kept running, but the second bullet dropped me to the ground. … It broke my bones, and the third one made me start crawling.”
Some people helped get him off the street and away from the carnage. The shooting lasted for about a half-hour, and there were some 30 bodies in the street, he said.
“I remember people strewn on the streets, children, elderly, young men, elderly women. … The street turned into the street of the dead, a graveyard,” he said.
“There was nothing I could do. Every man was for himself.”