A federal district court judge sentenced four former Blackwater Worldwide mercenaries to lengthy prison terms on Monday for their role in the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad, Iraq in 2007.
Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, Paul Slough and Devin Heard were convicted on charges of first-degree murder and manslaughter by a federal jury in October 2014. The four were part of a security team working for the US State Department in Iraq.
On September 16, 2007 the members of the convoy, unprovoked, opened fire with their automatic weapons on stopped traffic in Nisour Square and also launched stun grenades. The mercenaries continued to fire their weapons as civilians tried to flee the area. One member of the security team did not stop firing his automatic rifle, despite calls to cease fire, until a fellow mercenary threatened to shoot him. Blackwater mercenaries in helicopters also fired into traffic from overhead.
The massacre resulted in the deaths of 17 unarmed Iraqis and wounded at least 20 others.
Monday’s sentencing was the conclusion of a years-long process, which has wound its way through the federal court system. Charges were first brought by the Department of Justice in 2008 and subsequently dismissed by a district judge in 2009 before being reinstated by an appeals court in 2011. The US government rejected Iraqi demands that the Blackwater mercenaries stand trial in Iraq.