Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Iraqi authorities had completed an investigation into the Sept. 16 shooting in Nisoor Square in western Baghdad and concluded that Blackwater guards were responsible for the deaths.
He told The Associated Press that the conclusion was based on witness statements as well as videotape shot by cameras at the nearby headquarters of the national police command. He said eight people were killed at the scene and three of the 15 wounded died in hospitals.
Blackwater, which provides most of the security for U.S. diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq, has insisted that its guards came under fire from armed insurgents and shot back only to defend themselves.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Saturday that she knew nothing about the videotape and was contractually prohibited from discussing details of the shooting.
Khalaf also said the ministry was looking into six other fatal shootings involving the Moyock, N.C.-based company in which 10 Iraqis were killed and 15 wounded. Among the shootings was one Feb. 7 outside Iraqi state television in Baghdad that killed three building guards.
"These six cases will support the case against Blackwater, because they show that it has a criminal record," Khalaf said.
Khalaf said the report was "sent to the judiciary" although he would not specify whether that amounted to filing of criminal charges. Under Iraqi law, an investigating judge reviews criminal complaints and decides whether there is enough evidence for a trial.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denied that authorities had decided to file charges against the Blackwater guards and said Saturday that no decision had been taken whether to seek punishment.
"The necessary measures will be taken that will preserve the honor of the Iraqi people," he said in New York, where al-Maliki arrived Friday for the U.N. General Assembly session. "We have ongoing high-level meetings with the U.S. side about this issue."
Al-Maliki is expected to raise the issue with Bush during a meeting Monday in New York.
It is doubtful that foreign security contractors could be prosecuted under Iraqi law. A directive issued by U.S. occupation authorities in 2004 granted contractors, U.S. troops and many other foreign officials immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.
Emphasis by editor