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National Briefing / WASHINGTON, D.C.

Iraq shooting probe targets 6 contractors

August 17, 2008|From Times Wire Reports

Half a dozen Blackwater Worldwide security guards have gotten target letters from the Justice Department in an investigation of shootings in Baghdad last year that killed 17 Iraqis.

The guards are caught up in the investigation of an incident in September when a Blackwater team arrived in several vehicles at a Baghdad intersection where gunfire erupted, leaving numerous Iraqis dead and wounded.

The Washington Post, which first reported the story on the Justice Department letters on its website Saturday night, described the six guards as former U.S. military personnel, but did not identify them.

Three sources close to the case told the Post that any charges would be brought against the guards under a federal law used to prosecute cases referred to the Justice Department by the Pentagon for crimes committed by military personnel and contractors overseas.

Target letters often are a prelude to indictment.

The shootings began when Blackwater guards escorting a U.S. diplomatic convoy entered the Nisoor Square traffic circle in west Baghdad.

Blackwater says the convoy was ambushed by insurgents, touching off a gun battle. Iraqi witnesses, however, described an unprovoked attack by security guards firing indiscriminately, killing motorists, bystanders and children.

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