Source AP ©

US contractors die in Iraq in vain

Internal memos show that four security contractors who were ambushed and killed in Iraq three years ago were told to go through the dangerous city of Fallujah when a safer route was available, a newspaper reported.

The memos said a Blackwater USA supervisor also plucked two members of each six-man team for other work, reducing the teams' numbers and making them more vulnerable to attack, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Sunday.

Memos from the second team - whose leader decided to go around Fallujah on March 31, 2004, and which was not attacked - said the teams also were sent without maps, although other memos suggest maps were available, the newspaper said.

"These reports were written by people who were not there," Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell told The Associated Press. "The answer to what really happened in Fallujah is a tragedy in which four brave men were killed."

Tyrrell said she could not comment on specifics because of pending litigation and would not comment on the memos.

A team called Bravo 2, which went around Fallujah, said both teams were told to go through the city but got back to Baghdad safely because they took a different route than the one they were told to use.

The other team, called November 1, went into the city as instructed, escorting empty trucks, and ran into a deadly ambush, according to the memos.

The Bravo 2 memos said the decisions were made by Blackwater's site manager in Baghdad, despite protests that the teams had too few people and weren't ready, the newspaper said.

Bravo 2 was ordered the morning after it arrived from the United States to go to the Jordanian border, pick up an executive for a food service company and take him to Baghdad, a memo said.

Team members protested that they did not have time to sight their weapons to be sure they were accurate. They were told to do their job or go home, a memo said.

Families of the four men killed sued Blackwater. The company countersued and won a ruling that the disputes would be heard in closed arbitration sessions instead of open court.

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