In an eye-opening reminder of the most tumultuous period of the Iraq War, the U.S. has brought new charges against four former Blackwater contractors for the infamous 2007 shooting in Nisour Square that killed 17 civilians.
Prosecutors charge that the heavily-armed Blackwater convoy launched an unprovoked attack using snipers, machine guns, and even grenade launchers during the incident that also wounded 20 people.
The shooting brought U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boiling point and deepened the controversy of using private contractors who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
The original charges against the men were thrown-out in 2009 about a month before the trial was set to begin.
The dismissal of the charges further enraged many Iraqis, prompting Vice President Joe Biden to voice his “personal regret” during a speech in Baghdad, promising to appeal the court’s decision.
The new indictment contains 33 counts, including voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter and using a firearm to commit violence.
The men, Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are nearly identical to the ones brought 5 years ago.
“The vast majority of the U.S. contractors who served in Iraq did so with honor and integrity,” U.S. Attorney Ron Machen, the chief prosecutor in Washington D.C. said in a statement. “But, as alleged today, these defendants abused their power through a relentless attack on unarmed civilians that recklessly exceeded any possible justification.”
Prosecutors dropped their charge against a fifth defendant, Donald Ball, last month.
Blackwater has since changed its name to Academi and is based in McLean, Virginia.