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Blackwater gunned down Iraqi civilians as they tried to flee, US says as case goes to jury

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By Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four former security guards for Blackwater Worldwide “took something that didn’t belong to them, the lives of 14 human beings,” in September 2007 when they fired on civilians in a Baghdad traffic circle, a U.S. prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday.

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Several victims were shot in the back as they tried to flee, federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion noted. Summing up the government’s case against the guards, he also recounted the testimony of relatives who had given emotional accounts of their loved ones’ gory deaths.

Asuncion began closing arguments by painting the ex-security guards as cold-blooded killers who unleashed firepower on Iraqi civilians who posed no threat.

The shootings at Nisur Square, four years into the Iraq war, sparked international outrage. The guards were trying to secure a path for a State Department convoy.

Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty had been charged with manslaughter over 13 of the deaths, attempt to commit manslaughter of others who were wounded, and a firearms offense that carries a mandatory 30-year sentence.

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A fourth guard, Nicholas Slatten, is charged with murdering the driver of a white Kia, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, with what prosecutors contend were the first, unprovoked shots at Nisur Square.

The jury is expected to hear from the defendants’ lawyers later this week, and begin deliberations early next week. Lawyers for the guards have portrayed the men as facing gunfire from multiple directions and making split-second decisions to defend themselves.

For more than two months, the jury has heard from a series of witnesses, including relatives of those killed. It also heard from other members of the Blackwater convoy, known as Raven 23, who have provided a mixed picture of whether the unit faced threats when its members fired.

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On Wednesday Asuncion walked the jury through some of the testimony, showing photos of each witness and emotionally recounting their words.

His voice cracking, Asuncion reminded jurors of the father of nine-year-old Ali Razzaq, who spoke of getting out of his car to have “his son’s brains fall out at his feet.”

On Wednesday Asuncion recounted how another Raven 23 member, Marc Mealy, had testified that Slatten spoke of Iraqis as “animals” and had boasted of shooting a man whose head he “turned…into a canoe.”

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The trial has unfolded as Islamic State militants have captured one-third of Iraq, drawing the first American air strikes there since the end of the occupation in 2011.

Last week prosecutors dismissed charges Heard and Liberty had faced over five of the deaths.

(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Caren Bohan and David Gregorio)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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George Washington Bridge shut down for all traffic as Bomb Squad investigates suspicious device

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Traffic in New York City slowed to gridlock on Friday after authorities shut down the world's busiest vehicular bridge.

"All traffic on the George Washington Bridge has been closed off due to reports of a suspicious device on the span linking New York and New Jersey," CBS New York reported Thursday.

"According to police sources, the Port Authority Police Department has called in the Bergen County Bomb Squad to help with their investigation," CBS added. "Sources tell CBS2 the NYPD has not been called in yet to assist with the possible threat."

https://twitter.com/PANYNJ_GWB/status/1164724186880675841

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Maddow walks through existence of a ‘whistleblower’ alleging the IRS is mishandling Trump’s taxes

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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported Thursday on the "confetti canon" of new filings in the legal battle between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the House Ways and Means Committee over access to President Donald Trump's tax returns.

Maddow reported on Exhibit QQ in the latest filings, which is a letter from Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

"On July 29, 2019, the Committee received an unsolicited communication from a Federal employee setting forth credible allegations of 'evidence of possible misconduct' -- specifically, potential 'inappropriate efforts to influence' the mandatory audit program," Exhibit QQ read.

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Texas governor busted sending racist call-to-arms a day before El Paso attack: ‘take matters into our own hands’

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On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) tweeted out a message of unity and promised to work to reduce violence in his state, in the wake of the shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead and dozens more injured:

Today we had hearings responding to the tragic shooting in El Paso.

We focused on community healing, combating domestic terrorism, reducing hateful ideologies, & keeping guns out of hands of deranged killers while respecting 2nd Amendment rights.

We’ll keep TX safe.#txlege pic.twitter.com/ymct4aiSgK

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