Five Blackwater guards were indicted on charges of manslaughter on Monday in a case that will test the legal accountability of private contractors in Iraq. A sixth guard pleaded guilty. The Blackwater employees killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians without justification at a Baghdad traffic circle, the Justice Department alleges.

New York Times:

According to the indictments, the Blackwater guards disobeyed orders by leaving their base to respond to reports of a car bomb. Upon arriving at Nisour Square, the indictments said, the guards moved into the circle against the flow of traffic and, without warning, began firing.

The shootings were without provocation or justification, said Patrick Rowan, the assistant attorney general for national security. “The consequences were devastating,” he said.

The company has not said if it is paying the legal fees of the guards facing charges, although a Blackwater spokeswoman said last week that the company did so in some instances.

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