Five American security guards charged in connection with the shooting deaths of 14 civilians in Baghdad last year surrendered to federal agents in Utah on Monday.
The Justice Department, which unsealed the indictments on Monday, said the five Blackwater Worldwide guards fired a grenade into a girls' school, shot an unarmed civilian point-blank as he held up his hands and used machine guns on bystanders.
The five guards, who were contracted by the U.S. to protect State Department personnel, surrendered Monday and were due to ask a federal judge in Utah for bail. A sixth Blackwater guard has admitted to killing at least one Iraqi in a plea deal.
"None of these victims was an insurgent, and many were shot while inside of civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee," prosecutors wrote in court documents. "One victim was shot in his chest while standing in the street with his hands up."
The five were charged with 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. They are also charged with using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum sentence.
The incident occurred last year in a busy Baghdad intersection known as Nisoor Square. At the time, witnesses said the security guards opened fire unprovoked. Women and children were among the victims, and the shooting left the square littered with blown-out cars.
The shootings increased tensions between Washington and the fledgling Iraqi government in Baghdad. The Iraqi government sought the right to prosecute the men in Iraqi courts.
The guards who surrendered in Salt Lake City were reportedly hoping to get the case moved to Utah, where they think they'll find sympathetic jurors.
From staff and wire reports