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The Virginian-Pilot

Another Lawsuit Targets Founder of Blackwater

Bill Sizemore

Grilled by the politicans ... Erik Prince, chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Photo: AFP)

Yet another civil lawsuit accuses Blackwater guards of driving through the streets of Baghdad randomly shooting innocent Iraqis.

The latest case accuses Blackwater founder Erik Prince of personally directing murders from a 24-hour remote monitoring "war room" at the private military company's Moyock, N.C., headquarters.

Prince "personally directed and permitted a heavily-armed private army... to roam the streets of Baghdad killing innocent civilians," alleges the suit, filed by four Iraqi citizens.

Prince was well aware that his men, including top executives, "viewed shooting innocent Iraqis as sport," the suit says. In fact, "those who killed and wounded innocent Iraqis tended to rise higher in Mr. Prince's organization than those who abided by the rule of law."

Prince's top executives openly discussed "laying Hajjis out on cardboard" and "bragged about their collective role in killing those of the Islamic faith," the suit alleges.

On more than one occasion, the suit says, Prince's men went "night hunting" in helicopters after 10 p.m. over the streets of Baghdad, wearing night goggles, killing at random.

The lawsuit says Prince caused murders to occur on at least 11 occasions, including one and perhaps more in the United States.

The suit describes one case in which a young man, not identified in the court papers, died after photographing Anna Bundy, a Blackwater executive, packaging illegal weaponry outfitted with silencers for shipment to Iraq.

One employee is said to have warned the young man that such photographs "are what get people killed." Lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to use the legal discovery process to learn whether Prince participated in the events leading to his death.

The latest suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, is the sixth civil case brought against Prince and his company, now known as Xe, by the Washington law firm Burke O'Neil on behalf of more than 60 Iraqis or their estates.

Many of them were injured or killed two years ago today - Sept. 16, 2007 - in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in a shooting incident that left 17 Iraqis dead and ultimately led to the loss of Blackwater's diplomatic security contract.

Five former Blackwater guards face criminal charges of voluntary manslaughter in that incident. Last week, federal prosecutors filed papers alleging a yearlong pattern of hostile action against Iraqis by the defendants leading up to that shooting.

In one episode described in those papers, one of the five defendants, Evan Liberty, allegedly drove through Baghdad on Sept. 9, 2007, a week before the Nisoor Square incident, randomly shooting Iraqis through the porthole of an armored vehicle.

The latest civil suit is an apparent outgrowth of that event. The plaintiffs are four Iraqis who operated a shop in Baghdad and were allegedly injured by Liberty's "wanton shooting."

Xe had no immediate comment on the new allegations.

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