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Blackwater Faces New Death and Injury Claims and Drug Allegations

by Burke O'Neil LLC Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 at 7:13 PM

The estates of two more Iraqis killed when Blackwater USA personnel allegedly opened fire on civilians in Nisoor Square in Baghdad on Sept. 16 and an injured survivor of the incident joined the pending civil litigation against the private military contractor late Monday.

Blackwater Faces New Death and Injury Claims and Drug Allegations, According to Legal Team for Iraqi Families

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The estates of two more Iraqis killed when Blackwater USA personnel allegedly opened fire on civilians in Nisoor Square in Baghdad on Sept. 16 and an injured survivor of the incident joined the pending civil litigation against the private military contractor late Monday.

Survivor Abdulwahab Abdulqadir Al-Qalamchi and the estates of Dr. Mahasin Mohson Kadhum and her son, Ahmed Hathem Al-Rubaie, filed new claims against Blackwater and affiliated companies in Washington federal court, according to their U.S.-based legal team.

According to the lawsuit, Dr. Kadhum was a doctor in Baghdad whose son, a second-year medical student, was shot to death before her eyes; she was then shot to death as she cradled her dead son's body, calling for help.

The survivors and the estates of the dead are represented by Susan L. Burke, William T. O'Neil, Elizabeth M. Burke, and Katherine R. Hawkins of Burke O'Neil LLC, of Philadelphia; Michael Ratner and Vincent Warren, of the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Shereef Akeel, of Akeel & Valentine, PLC, of Birmingham, Mich.

In other litigation developments, the First Amended Complaint filed Monday alleges that:

-- Blackwater routinely deploys heavily-armed "shooters" in the streets
of Baghdad with the knowledge that up to 25 percent of them are
chemically influenced by steroids or other judgment-altering
substances, and fails to take effective steps to stop and test for
drug use, and,

-- The Blackwater personnel who fired on the innocent civilians had
ignored directives from the Tactical Operations Center ("TOC"), which
was manned by both Blackwater and Department of State personnel, to
stay in another area with State Department personnel they had dropped
off until further instructed to leave the area.

Susan L. Burke, of Burke O'Neil LLC, stated, "The culture of lawlessness created and fostered by Blackwater has exacted a terrible toll on innocent people in Iraq. Blackwater 'shooters' senselessly ended the lives of Dr. Kadhum and her son and the others killed at Nisoor Square. We believe that the ongoing government investigations and this litigation will prove that Blackwater's interests are contrary to the interests of the U.S. military, the State Department, and the nation of Iraq."

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, "The rule of law in every civilized nation in the world is that there is no legitimate reason to indiscriminately kill innocent bystanders. We believe that the acts of Blackwater at Nisoor Square were deliberate, willful, intentional, wanton, malicious and oppressive and constitute war crimes. Blackwater is harming the United States by its repeated and consistent failure to act in accord with the law of war, the laws of the United States, and international law."

Shereef Akeel, of Akeel & Valentine, PLC, stated, "At this time, only in America, can Americans hold Blackwater accountable for the tragic loss of innocent lives at Nisoor Square. Our investigation, like those of U.S. military and criminal investigators, indicates that none of the civilians was armed or taking offensive actions against the Blackwater 'shooters' and that the Blackwater personnel were not protecting State Department officials when the shooting began. With that in mind, the Iraqi families who brought this legal action want Blackwater to be held accountable in accordance with American law."

The case is "Estate of Himoud Saed Abtan, et al. v. Blackwater Worldwide, et al." (C.A. No. 07-1831) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. On Oct. 11, survivor Talib Mutlaq Deewan and the estates of the Himoud Saed Abtan, Usama Fadhil Abbass, and Oday Ismail Ibraheem in the litigation sued Blackwater and affiliated companies.

The Complaint alleged that Blackwater violated the federal Alien Tort Statute in committing war crimes, and that Blackwater should be liable for claims of assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training and supervision. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for death, physical, mental, and economic injuries, and punitive damages.

The defendants include Blackwater USA, Blackwater Worldwide, Blackwater Security Consulting LLC, The Prince Group LLC, a holding company, and Blackwater founder Erik Prince.

Media Contacts: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, for Burke O'Neil LLC and Akeel & Valentine, PLC, (281) 703-6000 or (281) 362-1411; Jen Nessel, the Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449; and David Lerner, Riptide Communications, for the Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 260-5000.
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