By Bill Sizemore, The Virginian-Pilot, July 2, 2009
A just-amended lawsuit alleges six additional instances of unprovoked attacks on Iraqi civilians by Blackwater contractors.
Three people, including a 9-year-old boy, are said to have died.
Also added to the suit is a racketeering count accusing Blackwater founder Erik Prince of running an ongoing criminal enterprise involved in, among other things, kidnapping and child prostitution.
The latest charges, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, bring to more than 60 the number of Iraqis allegedly killed or wounded since 2005 by armed Blackwater contractors guarding U.S. diplomatic personnel in Iraq.
The Moyock, N.C.-based security company, since renamed Xe, earned more than $1 billion under that contract before the State Department, under pressure from the Iraqi government, let it lapse in May.
One of the new plaintiffs is the estate of Akram Khalid Sa'ed Jasim, 9, who died when Blackwater shooters allegedly opened fire on a minivan returning from the Baghdad airport on July 1, 2007. The boy was traveling with his extended family, who had gone to the airport to apply for passports.
The Blackwater guards also shot the boy's mother in the back as she bent over trying to shield her 3-month-old daughter, who nevertheless was shot in the face, according to the lawsuit. The boy's father, uncle and cousin also were wounded.
The racketeering count added to the suit this week accuses Prince's companies of engaging in murder, weapons smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, kidnapping, child prostitution, illegal drug use and destruction of evidence.
The companies are accused of carrying out three or more kidnappings using three airplanes, identified in the suit by their tail numbers. Susan Burke, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said Wednesday that the kidnappings appear to have been so-called "extraordinary renditions" in which suspects are taken to other countries for interrogation.
The child prostitution charge involves young Iraqi girls allegedly being brought to the Blackwater compound in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, identified in the lawsuit as the "Blackwater Man Camp," to provide oral sex to contractors for $1.
The purpose of the racketeering allegations is to demonstrate a "pattern of illegality" by Xe and its affiliated companies, Burke said.
If the court rules against Xe on the racketeering count, it could dissolve the company or place restrictions on its future activities.
"What we're very, very worried about is this company hurting other people going forward around the globe," Burke said. "They're moving into Africa, they're moving into other places, and we believe they need judicial supervision."
Anne Tyrrell, a Xe spokeswoman, said the company "rejects these allegations, which are largely identical to past allegations made by the same group of attorneys in other, unrelated cases."
Bill Sizemore, (757) 446-2276, email@example.com