Witnesses testify in Blackwater lawsuit

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury investigating Blackwater Worldwide heard witnesses Tuesday as a private lawsuit accused the government contractor’s bodyguards of ignoring orders and abandoning their posts shortly before taking part in a Baghdad shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.Filed this week in U.S. District Court in Washington, the civil complaint also accuses North Carolina-based Blackwater of failing to give drug tests to its guards in Baghdad – even though an estimated one in four of them was using steroids or other “judgment altering substances.”

A Blackwater spokeswoman said Tuesday its employees are banned from using steroids or other enhancement drugs but declined to comment on the other charges detailed in the 18-page lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of five Iraqis who were killed and two who were injured during the Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. The shootings enraged the Iraqi government, and the Justice Department is investigating whether it can bring criminal charges in the case, even though the State Department promised limited immunity to the Blackwater guards.

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