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Survivors of Blackwater shooting in Iraq tell FBI their stories

  • Story Highlights
  • In September, 17 Iraqis were killed in a shooting involving Blackwater
  • Iraqi government says security company shot civilians without provocation
  • Company has said its contractors "acted lawfully and appropriately"
  • FBI agents interviewed survivors, who called interviewers courteous, professional
  • Next Article in World »
From Jomana Karadsheh
CNN
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Survivors of a September 16 incident in which the Iraqi government accuses Blackwater USA security guards of fatally shooting 17 Iraqi civilians without provocation have told FBI investigators harrowing stories of their ordeals.

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Hassan Jabbar, who was injured in the Blackwater shooting, is comforted by his wife at a Baghdad hospital.

Iraqis have said 27 Iraqis were wounded in the shooting, which has sparked an international controversy over the conduct of private U.S. contractors in Iraq. The guards were protecting a State Department convoy.

An FBI team arrived in Baghdad on October 4 to investigate.

CNN has spoken by telephone with three of the survivors who were interviewed by the agents.

Abdul Wahab Abdul Razzaq, who works at a bank, said he was driving toward Nusoor Square when he saw a traffic jam. He turned his car around to avoid it.

In his rearview mirror, he saw a private security convoy coming up behind him. One of the convoy vehicles hit his car, and someone inside threw water bottles and flares toward him. They started shooting when cars could not move, he said. Abdul Razzaq said he was shot at three times, and two of the bullets hit him.

One bullet hit Abdul Razzaq in the hand, which he said broke a bone, and a second bullet ricocheted, wounding him in the leg. Worried about getting shot in the head, he opened the door and jumped from his car, diving on the ground.

"I wanted to save what was left of me," he said.

His car, which was left in "drive," kept moving and slammed into a wall, Abdul Razzaq said. He said he was screaming for help when two policemen showed up after the Blackwater convoy left. The police took him to Yarmouk Hospital.

Meanwhile, he saw a man get shot in the abdomen, he said. "It was awful."

He said he met Saturday with two FBI agents, an Iraqi National Police team and a Lebanese interpreter for about 45 minutes. They asked him detailed questions, some of them twice, to test him, he said. He provided them with pictures of his car.

Abdul Razzaq described the investigators as very understanding, and said they expressed their regrets over what had happened.

The first U.S. soldiers to arrive on the scene of the shootings have told investigators they found no evidence the Blackwater contractors were fired upon, a source familiar with a preliminary U.S. military report told CNN on Friday. Video Watch a witness describe the shooting »

The soldiers also found evidence suggesting the guards fired on cars that were trying to leave the scene, the military source said.

Blackwater has no comment on the report, spokeswoman Anne Tyrell said.

The company has said its contractors "acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack," and "the 'civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies, and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire." See facts about private security companies that work for the U.S. government »

The U.S. State Department has said that "innocent life was lost."

Another survivor, Haider Ahmed Rabe'e, a taxi driver who normally operates in the Nusoor Square area, said Saturday that when he drove in from Yarmouk that day, he heard shooting and a woman screaming for help.

Rabe'e said he tried to flee the area, but was stuck in traffic. The scene was chaotic, with bullets flying everywhere, he said. Rabe'e said he is used to private security convoys in the area and never imagined anything like the incident that unfolded because "people understand procedure around these convoys now and usually stop their cars."

Rabe'e said he panicked, and jumped from the passenger side of his vehicle. As he hit the ground, he was hit four times in the legs.

He said all he was thinking was "I wish I could dig into the ground and hide. I made my last prayer. I looked up to the sky to ask God to protect us. I saw two small helicopters."

Rabe'e said he saw other people getting shot -- some wounded, others killed. He also met Saturday with FBI investigators. They took his statement, asked him questions and showed him a diagram, so he could pinpoint his location, he said.

He described the investigators as "nice and understanding; they offered me water and Pepsi and did not pressure me in any way."

Rabe'e said he has disturbing flashbacks of the incident. He said no one has talked to him about compensation; he is still recovering at home and can't yet work.

Businessman Mohammed Hafez, a third survivor, also met with two FBI investigators and a translator Saturday. His 9-year-old son, Ali, was killed.

Hafez said there were a number of FBI teams split up into different rooms so they could meet with as many people as possible.

According to Hafez, many of the witnesses and the wounded were present. They went to the National Police headquarters around 9 a.m. local time and were finished by 5 p.m.

He said they took his details and said they will be in touch with him again because they want to see his car. Their questioning was very detailed, he said. He described them as "professionals seeking the truth."

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Hafez said they used diagrams, asked questions about bullets and where they hit, sought a description of those who shot at them and asked if he would recognize the shooters if he saw them again. He said he sat with them for about 90 minutes.

Investigators also met with his sister, who was in Hafez's vehicle with her children. They were uninjured. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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