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Two Blackwater Guards Arrested by FBI on Murder Charges

They are charged with killing two Afghan civilians in May 2009.
 
 
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Two former Blackwater operatives were arrested by U.S. federal agents on murder charges, stemming from their alleged involvement in the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in Kabul in May. They have been identified as Justin Cannon, 27, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va. They have been charged with "crimes including second-degree murder, attempted murder and firearms offenses while working as contractors for the U.S. Department of Defense in Afghanistan," according to the Justice Department. The 13-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 6 and unsealed today.

It alleges that on May 5, 2009, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Cannon and Drotleff shot and killed two Afghanistan nationals and wounded a third. In a press release, the Justice Department said:

The indictment alleges that at the time of the shootings, Cannon and Drotleff were Department of Defense contractors employed by Paravant LLC, which is a subsidiary of Xe (formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide).  According to the indictment, as contractors, Cannon and Drotleff provided training to the Afghan National Army for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the use and maintenance of weapons and weapons systems.

In May, reports emerged that four Blackwater/Xe operatives working for Paravant LLC were alleged to have fired on a civilian car they say they saw as a threat, killing at least one Afghan civilian. According to  The Wall Street Journal 's August Cole, "At least some of the men, who were former military personnel, had been allegedly drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the incident. Off-duty contractors aren't supposed to carry weapons or drink alcohol."

The U.S. military said the incident took place in Kabul on May 5. "While stopped for the vehicle accident, the contractors were approached by a vehicle in a manner the contractors felt threatening," according to the military.

Now, there are many layers to this story, not the least of which is yet another allegation of Blackwater-affiliated personnel drinking and killing in a foreign war zone. (A drunken Blackwater  operative was alleged to have killed a bodyguard to an Iraqi vice president on Christmas Eve 2006 inside Baghdad's Green Zone).

What's more, this represented the first public mention of the Blackwater/Xe subsidiary Paravant, but also the fact that its work was apparently buried in a subcontract with Raytheon, which in turn has a large U.S. Army training contract in Afghanistan. "Raytheon's use of Paravant is for a program called Warfighter Focus, a sweeping U.S. Army training effort valued at more than $11 billion over a 10-year period," reports The Wall Street Journal .

Jeremy Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army .