RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) – The new owners of the security company formerly known as Blackwater said Saturday they have settled a lawsuit brought by some of the survivors and estates of Iraqis killed during an infamous 2007 shooting in Baghdad.
The settlement closes the last lawsuit against the company, now called Academi, over the shooting that killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square, spokesman John Procter said.
Security personnel of North Carolina-based Blackwater were guarding U.S. diplomats when the guards opened fire in the crowded square on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
The Blackwater contractors argued that insurgents ambushed them in a traffic circle before they opened fire. Prosecutors who filed criminal charges said the men unleashed an unprovoked attack on civilians using machine guns and grenades.
The confidential settlement of the lawsuit against the former Blackwater “enables its new management to move the company forward,” Academi said in a statement, “and, with respect to the Iraqi families and individuals who were plaintiffs in this lawsuit, provides them with compensation so they can now bring some closure to the losses they suffered.”
A Raleigh attorney representing the families, Jim Roberts, confirmed the settlement, which was first reported Saturday by The Charlotte Observer.
The lawsuit, which bounced between federal and North Carolina courts, accused Blackwater and its five contractors of wrongful death and negligence. A federal judge last year returned the case to the North Carolina courts, where the lawsuit was initially filed, after ruling that nonresident aliens are typically unable to sue in federal court for injuries sustained outside the country.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three people killed in the shooting _ 9-year-old Ali Kinani, Abrahem Abed Al Mafraje and Mahde Sahab Naser Shamake _ and others.
Lawyers for the company had argued in court that Blackwater contractors were essentially acting as employees of the U.S. government because they were providing security to State Department personnel, so the government and not the company should be held accountable for the deaths.
Lawyers for Blackwater and the contractors also argued they couldn’t be sued by foreigners for something that happened in a foreign country governed by foreign law.
The five security guards involved in the shooting also were indicted for manslaughter after refusing Iraqi demands that they face trial in Iraqi courts. A federal judge dismissed the charges against the five, citing government missteps, but Vice President Joe Biden said nearly two years ago that the government would appeal the court’s ruling. Before the judge dismissed the charges, a sixth contractor pleaded guilty in the criminal case.
Blackwater earlier settled a series of federal lawsuits in which dozens of Iraqis accused the company of cultivating a reckless culture that allowed innocent civilians to be killed.
Academi, which took over Blackwater facilities in North Carolina and elsewhere but is based in Arlington, Va., last month settled a lawsuit in which families accused the company of responsibility for the deaths of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. Their slayings by Iraqi insurgents produced the grisly images of two of their bodies hanging from a bridge in Fallujah.
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