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4 Former Blackwater Security Guards Guilty of Iraq Killings

FILE - An Iraqi traffic policeman inspecting a car destroyed by a Blackwater security detail in al-Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007.

A U.S. jury has found four former Blackwater security guards guilty in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad.

Nicholas Slatten was found guilty of first-degree murder. The three other three guards, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

The jury has reached verdicts on only part of the 33 charges related to the shootings. The jury is expected to continue deliberating on the other counts.

The trial focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others. The September 16, 2007, shootings caused an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare.

The State Department hired Blackwater to protect American diplomats in Iraq.

Blackwater convoys of four heavily armored vehicles operated in risky environments where car bombs and attacks by insurgents were common.

The defendants' lawyers said there was strong evidence the guards were targeted with gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, leading the guards to shoot back in self-defense. Federal prosecutors said there was no incoming gunfire and the shootings by the guards were unprovoked.

One of the government witnesses, Blackwater guard Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to killing one woman during the shooting.

The maximum sentence for conviction of first-degree murder is life imprisonment.