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Blackwater Iraq killings 'akin to Vietnam My Lai massacre', FBI investigator says

UN experts slammed Trump's decision to pardon four US mercenaries [Getty/ Archive]

Date of publication: 2 January, 2021

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FBI investigator John Patarini said he was 'disgusted' with President Trump's actions.
The lead FBI investigator in the case of a mass shooting in Baghdad has described the event as "a massacre along the lines of My Lai in Vietnam", following US President Donald Trump's decision to pardon four American mercenaries who perpetrated the killings.

FBI investigator John M Patarini said in a letter published by the New York Times on Friday that he was "disgusted with the president’s actions".

US citizens Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were employed by American private security firm Blackwater when they carried out the shooting in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007.

Blackwater, which rebranded as Academi in 2011, was founded by the brother of Trump administration education secretary Betsy DeVos.

The American mercenaries killed total of 17 people amid heavy traffic in the square, firing machine guns and grenade launchers. Fourteen unarmed civilians, including a nine-year-old child, were among those killed.

Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder, while his three colleagues were found guilty of voluntary and attempted manslaughter. The four men walked free after Trump named them in his final presidential pardons list.

"I was the FBI case agent who led the investigation of the Blackwater massacre in Baghdad," Patarini wrote in his letter to NYT.

"We originally went to Iraq thinking this shooting was some form of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire between Blackwater guards and insurgents," he said.

"After only one week, we determined that this incident was not as presented by Blackwater personnel and their state department lackeys, but it was a massacre along the lines of My Lai in Vietnam."

The Vietnam War massacre Patarini referred to was the 1968 killing of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians, including as many as 504 children. 

US prosecutors found only one soldier, Lieut. William Calley, guilty of crimes over the massacre. Calley spent just several months in prison after Preisdent Richard Nixon ordered his sentence reduced.

Little remorse

In his first interview since being released from prison, former Blackwater contractor Evan Liberty expressed little remorse for his actions. 

"I feel like I acted correctly," he said of his conduct in 2007. "I regret any innocent loss of life, but I'm just confident in how I acted and I can basically feel peace with that."

Liberty also claimed he "didn't shoot at anybody that wasn't shooting at me" and claimed he and his fellow mercenaries would "never take an innocent life".

Trump's pardoning of the Blackwater mercenaries sparked international outrage, including UN experts who said the move violates international law.

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