Exclusive: First Images of Controversial Blackwater Incident

By From The Blotter

Sep 28, 2007 3:54pm

ABC News has obtained the first images of the controversial Sept. 16 shooting incident involving Blackwater security forces. The still images, taken at 11:50 that morning, show the car bomb explosion near a financial compound in western Baghdad that precipitated the incident. A State Department official was visiting the compound when the bomb went off about 25 yards from the entrance. Immediately after the explosion, Blackwater is said to have called for reinforcements. In later images, two convoys of Blackwater security forces are seen arriving at the compound 10 minutes later to escort the official. Click Here for the Blackwater Slideshow. As the two convoys escorting a State Department motorcade leave at 12:05 p.m., the third vehicle in the second convoy was attacked, according to Blackwater’s version of events included in a sensitive but unclassified State Department report obtained by ABC News: "A white LN sedan had approached the motorcade at a high rate of speed from the south. The gunners [Blackwater forces] used hand and arm signals to stop the vehicle, then threw water bottles to get the driver’s attention. Local pedestrians also attempted to wave down the vehicle, but the vehicle continued at a high rate of speed. The gunners then engaged the vehicle with M4s [rifle] and later M240B [machine gun]." The Blackwater account of the incident also describes the activities of Iraqi policemen (IPs) in the incident. "An IP then ran to the vehicle, peered inside, then began to push the vehicle towards the motorcade. The gunners then engaged the vehicle again, and the IP ran away." According to the account, Iraqi policemen started shooting from a shack and a tree line south of the convoys and an insurgent in civilian clothes started firing on the convoy from a dirt mound. Click Here to Register to Receive Blotter Alerts. In sworn statements given to State Department investigators and obtained by ABC News, Blackwater guards provide detailed accounts of the incident. At least four of them reported firing their weapons at the white sedan which approached the convoy. "I turned and engaged the car with approximately 20 to 30 rounds from my M4 rifle. After I no longer felt the threat to my life, I turned back to cover my sector," wrote one guard. Blackwater guards also reported coming under fire from gunmen dressed in civilian clothes and Iraqi police. When one of the men in civilian clothes fired in a guards’ direction, he reported, "I fired one shot from my SR25 at the closest threat.  He went down and did not fire anymore."    One guard reported observing the driver of another white sedan pulling his vehicle into the convoy, prompting the guard to fire his weapon at the roof of the car. "The driver exited the vehicle and produced a small device in his hand and held it out in the direction of his vehicle. I perceived this device to be a trigger for an explosive device.  Fearing for my life and the lives of my team members, I fired several well aimed rounds center mass at the threat," he said. As the Blackwater vehicle injured in the attack was being towed away, one guard reported coming under fire from a red bus, returning fire and warning civilians to take cover. "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. Other photos obtained by ABC News depict the level of damage caused by the vehicle explosion. Included in the State Department report is a photo depicting the alleged damage to the Blackwater vehicle. "During the encounter, numerous small arms rounds impacted the Command vehicle, including at least one round that ricocheted off of the ground and into the radiator, rendering the vehicle immobilized," according to the report. Blackwater’s account of the incident is very different from the description provided by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. According to the Iraqi account, Blackwater guards halted traffic and fired on a white sedan that failed to slow down as it approached their convoy. That car erupted in flames, killing the driver and a woman and Blackwater guards continued to fire their weapons as people fled the scene. According to the ministry, Blackwater guards killed a total of 11 people and wounded 12. Blackwater has been involved in a series of other incidents over the year, and the Iraqi government has asked for the company to be banned in the country. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has asked for a "full and complete" review of the incident, along with four other incidents involving Blackwater guards killing civilians. A Blackwater spokeswoman said, "We can’t provide a comment except to say this is an ongoing investigation." A State Department spokesman told ABC News, "Look, you know, I am sure that at a certain point, once the investigation is concluded, we can deal with all those questions. But I’m not trying to rule anything in. I’m not trying to rule anything out. I’m telling you that we have an investigation that is ongoing." This post has been updated. Marcus Baram contributed to this report. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

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