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Blackwater Worldwide

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Definition: Blackwater Worldwide, formerly Blackwater USA, is a Moyock, N.C.,-based private company that specializes in an array of tactical security services, including police training, logistics, and mercenary development--what the company and the Pentagon referred to, in Iraq and Afghanistan, as "private security contractors."

The company was founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former White House intern under President George H. W. Bush and a Republican financier who's contributed more than $225,000 to G.O.P. candidates.

Blackwater became notorious during the Iraq war for its mercenaries' violence against Iraqi civilians and their unaccountability to local or military law.

Blackwater's most notorious incident took place on Sept. 16, 2007 in Baghdad's Nisour Square, which was bustling with pedestrians and motorists, when Blackwater personnel escorting a supply convoy opened fire and fatally shot at least 17 civilians and wounded at least 20 others. The company claims its employees did nothing wrong.

On Dec. 4, 2008, the Justice Department indicted five men who were Blackwater employees and members of the convoy detail at the time. They were: Dustin Laurent Heard; Paul Slough; Nick Slatten; Donald Ball; and Evan Liberty.

A sixth guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and described how he and the other guards fired automatic rifles and grenades at cars, houses, a traffic officer and a girls’ school. The indictments are based in part on Ridgeway's testimony. According to the Justice Department, 13 other Blackwater guards in the convoy acted professionally during the Nisoor Square killing spree. At one point, according to Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru, "at least one of the Blackwater guards drew a weapon on his own colleagues, shouting, 'Stop shooting!'"

Also Known As: Blackwater USA
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