Blackwater four 'shot dead Iraqi civilians'

Blackwater four 'shot dead Iraqi civilians'
An Iraqi looks at a burnt car on the site where Blackwater guards who were escorting US embassy officials opened fire in the western Baghdad neighbourhood of Yarmukh.

WASHINGTON - Four guards with the Blackwater private security firm shot dead unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, who were desperately trying to flee for their lives, a prosector said Wednesday.

At the close of a two-and-a-half-month trial in a federal court in Washington, US Attorney Anthony Asuncion asked simply what had motivated the men to open fire on the 14 Iraqis on September 16, 2007 in Baghdad.

"Why fire on so many innocent people? Why? Why shoot all of these people who are running away, who are trying to get away from these (four) men? Why shoot women and children who are unarmed?" he asked.

"There's no reason. What they did was criminal.

"People who could laugh, who could love, were turned into bloodied, bullet-riddled corpses, people who were not legitimate targets... who were no real threat to them." After showing images of the faces of the 14 people killed and 18 wounded, the prosecutor asked the jury to find the four guilty.

Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten sat quietly dressed in suits and ties.

Slatten, 32, is charged with the first-degree murder of a civilian and faces life in prison if convicted.

Slough, Liberty and Heard are accused of voluntary manslaughter of the 13 other victims.

Earlier in the trial, defence attorney Bill Heberlig stressed that security was facing terrible threats after the September 11 strikes on the United States.

"This was not Dupont Circle (in Washington), this was Baghdad, Iraq," Heberlig said, insisting Slatten "fired under control at a limited number of legitimate threats. He acted in self-defence, he committed no crime that day." The jury was expected to begin deliberations on Thursday.

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