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Baghdad to support Blackwater lawsuit in US court

Iraq said on Sunday it would support a lawsuit against private US security firm Blackwater filed by families of victims of a 2007 shooting in which 14 Iraqi civilians were killed.

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REUTERS - Iraq will help victims of a 2007 shooting file a U.S. lawsuit against employees of security firm Blackwater who were accused of opening fire on civilians, the government said on Sunday.

Last week, a U.S. judge threw out charges against five guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle, saying the defendants’ constitutional rights had been violated.

Iraq called that decision “unacceptable and unjust” and, as well as supporting a lawsuit brought by Iraqis wounded in the shooting and families of those killed, it will ask the U.S. Justice Department to review the criminal case, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

“The government will facilitate a lawsuit from Iraqi citizens to sue the guards and the company in a U.S. court,” he said.

The guards from Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe Services, say they shot across a crowded intersection in self-defence after hearing an explosion and gunfire.

But an Iraqi whose young son was killed in the incident said they indiscriminately fired at cars.

The shooting strained relations between Washington and Baghdad and became a symbol for many Iraqis of foreigners’ disregard for their lives.

Dabbagh said the court had “rejected the case on form, and not on its merits”.

Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, private guards protecting U.S. personnel were given immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. That ended with a bilateral agreement that took effect last year.

The five guards were charged in a U.S. federal court with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 of attempting to commit manslaughter and one weapons violation. A sixth Blackwater guard pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempting to commit manslaughter, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

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