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Originally published November 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 14, 2007 at 12:16 AM

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Blackwater killings unjustified?

Federal agents have found that the killings of at least 14 of the 17 Iraqi civilians shot by Blackwater Worldwide security personnel in...

The Associated Press

Iraq developments

Iraqi officials said Turkish helicopters fired on northern Iraqi villages Tuesday in an effort to dislodge Turkish Kurd guerrillas from bases there. A spokesman for the Iraqi Kurd regional administration, Jamal Abdullah, denied the attack report but said warplanes dropped flares Monday in the mountains.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks north of Baghdad, the military said today.

Seattle Times news services

WASHINGTON — Federal agents have found that the killings of at least 14 of the 17 Iraqi civilians shot by Blackwater Worldwide security personnel in a September confrontation were unjustified and violated rules of deadly force, The New York Times reported.

Citing civilian and military officials briefed on the case, The Times reported Tuesday night that the Justice Department already was reviewing the findings even though the FBI was still investigating the shootings in Baghdad on Sept. 16.

No evidence supports assertions by Blackwater employees that Iraqi civilians fired upon them, the Times reported.

The FBI has concluded that three of the deaths may have been justified under rules that allow lethal force in response to an imminent threat, the Times reported.

Investigators have concluded that as many as five of the company's guards opened fire during the shootings, the newspaper reported. One guard has become the focus of the investigation because that guard was responsible for several deaths.

A government official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that no conclusions have been reached about any of the fatalities.

The shootings took place in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. Blackwater contends its convoy was attacked before it opened fire, but the Iraqi government's investigation concluded the shootings were unprovoked.

State Department officials have said the department has offered limited immunity to private security contractors involved in shootings in Iraq. They disagreed with law-enforcement officials that such actions could jeopardize prosecutions in the Sept. 16 incident.

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