Four former Blackwater security guards were convicted Wednesday in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad, an incident that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe and was denounced by critics as an illustration of a war gone horribly wrong.

The men claimed self-defense, but federal prosecutors argued that they had shown “a grave indifference” to the carnage their actions would cause. All four were ordered immediately to jail.

Their lawyers are promising to file appeals. The judge did not immediately set a sentencing date.

The federal jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder, the most serious charge in a multi-count indictment. The three other guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun violations.

The outcome after a summer-long trial and weeks of jury deliberation appeared to stun the defense.

David Schertler, a lawyer for Heard, said, “The verdict is wrong, it’s incomprehensible. We’re devastated. We’re going to fight it every step of the way. We still think we’re going to win.”

However, one of those struck by gunfire in the shootings, Hassan Jabir, said in Baghdad that “at last we are hearing good news where justice has been achieved and Blackwater will receive their punishment.” He said there are two bullets still inside his body, one in his hand and one in his back, which doctors have said it would be very risky to remove.

The shootings on Sept. 16, 2007, caused an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare.

The State Department had hired Blackwater to protect American diplomats in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and elsewhere in the country. Blackwater convoys of four heavily armored vehicles operated in risky environments where car bombs and attacks by insurgents were common.

On the murder charge, Slatten could face a maximum penalty of life in prison. The other three defendants could face decades behind bars.

The case was mired in legal battles for years, making it uncertain whether the defendants would ever be tried.

The trial itself focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others. During an 11-week trial, prosecutors summoned 72 witnesses, including Iraqi victims, their families and former colleagues of the defendant Blackwater guards.

A Christian Holocaust is in our mist. We are actually calling this a Christian genocide… Day by day, it is getting worse and worse. More children are being beheaded. Mothers are being raped and killed. Fathers are being hung. Right now, 300,000 Christians are fleeing Iraq and living in neighboring cities.
—  Mark Arabo, national spokesman for “Ending Genocide in Iraq,” spoke with CNN about the decimation of the Christian community by ISIS in Iraq.

Melissa Stockwell:

Was the first female American soldier in history to lose a limb in active combat and was the first Iraq War veteran to compete in the Paralympic Games as a swimmer in 2008 • Was one of four athletes featured in a documentary called “Warrior Champions” • Completed her residency in prosthetics where she fit other amputees with prosthetic devices.

Condoleeza Rice backs out of Rutgers speech over student protests
May 3, 2014

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, was set to tell graduating Rutgers University students how bright their futures are at the school’s commencement ceremony this month. But not everyone was so thrilled about getting sent off into the Real World by one of the key players in the Iraq War, and protests abounded—now, Rice has decided to turn down the invitation.

Apparently, after Rice was announced as the key speaker at the ceremony on May 18th, students and faculty members rallied to get the administration to rescind her invite. On Monday, proving millennials have a little more mettle than they’re given credit for, students orchestrated a 50 person sit-in outside University President Robert Barchi’s office, boasting signs with anti-war slogans like “No honors for war criminals,” “War criminals out” and “RU 4 Humanity?”

Today, Rice announced she would no longer be speaking at the school. “Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” she said in a statement. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

She was set to receive $35K for the speech.

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Islamic militant sect, ISIS, which has been rampaging across the north and west of Iraq since last month, has been demolishing sacred sites such as shrines and mosques around the historic northern city of Mosul in Nineveh province.

Photographs from the area posted online under the banner “Demolishing shrines and idols in the state of Nineveh” depicted mosques being turned into piles of rubble – explosives deployed against Shiite buildings - and bulldozers flattening the shrines.

At least four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures have been destroyed by the bulldozers, according to AFP. The structures had been built around graves of Muslim saints. Six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed using explosives.

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