(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta/file)
Mohammed Abdul-Razzaq, left, the father of Ali, a 9-year-old boy killed in the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting in Baghdad involving Blackwater Worldwide contractors, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington with prosecutor Stephen Ponticiello, right, in 2008. At back center is another unidentified Iraqi who also appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad.

Blackwater shootings: Why did they shoot Iraqi civilians in 2007?

Blackwater shootings: Four Blackwater guards face charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations in the Sept. 16, 2007, shootings in Baghdad. US prosecutors say they have new evidence about the motive behind the shootings.

U.S. prosecutors say they intend to introduce evidence at an upcoming trial of private contractor Blackwater security guards of deep hostility by several of the guards toward the Iraqi civilian population in the year before shootings that killed 14 Iraqis and wounded at least 18 others.

Four Blackwater guards face charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations in the Sept. 16, 2007, shootings at Nisoor Square in Baghdad. The trial is scheduled to begin in June.

In a court filing Friday, Justice Department prosecutors said they must be permitted to introduce appropriate evidence that tends to establish the defendants' motivation at the time of the Nisoor Square shootings.

The guards' defense is that they believed they were under hostile fire at the time.

"In the year leading up to the events of Sept. 16, 2007, several of the defendants harbored a low regard for and deep hostility toward the Iraqi civilian population, which they openly expressed to other Blackwater personnel and exhibited through their deliberately reckless actions," the Justice Department filing stated.

"This evidence tends to establish that the defendants fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. ... but rather that they unreasonably and recklessly fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their low regard for and hostility toward Iraqis," the filing added.

According to the prosecution's court filing, Blackwater guard Nicholas Slatten said he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as "payback for 9/11," and he repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot, including an old Iraqi woman who had a knife in her hand. That incident occurred while Slatten was in the Army, the filing stated.

In various locations in Baghdad, the court filing said, Slatten deliberately fired his weapon to draw out return fire and instigate gun battles in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed Blackwater personnel in Iraq.

Four months before the Nisoor Square shootings, defendant Evan Liberty fired his automatic weapon from the turret of a Blackwater armored vehicle without aiming the weapon, and without regard for who might be struck by the rounds, the prosecution alleged. Defendant Paul Slough engaged in similar activity the months before the Nisoor Square shootings, the court filing added

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