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After Seven Years, Families Of Slain Blackwater Contractors Settle Suit

Seven years after the suit was filed, the families of four contractors killed in Iraq have settled a lawsuit with Academi, the company formerly known as Blackwater.

If you remember, the 2004 incident produced one of the most gruesome images of the war in Iraq: the charred bodies of two Blackwater guards were hung from a bridge in Fallujah.

The Virginian-Pilot, which broke this story today, reports that the lawsuit ended quietly and had it gone to trial, it "could have been a landmark lawsuit over battlefield accountability in an era of privatized warfare..."

The Pilot reports:

"Two sources who insisted on anonymity said the company agreed to a total payout of $635,000 — a mere fraction of the legal fees in the long-running case, let alone the $30 million in claims and counterclaims at stake.

"The settlement is in keeping with an aggressive makeover effort by Academi's current owners, who bought the company from founder Erik Prince a year ago and are doing their best to distance themselves from allegations of lawless behavior at Blackwater, from the streets of Baghdad to the executive suite in Moyock, N.C.

"Beyond any financial considerations, the Fallujah victims' families never got what they always said they wanted most: an opportunity to hold the company publicly accountable for their loved ones' deaths."

The families argued that Blackwater had sent the four men to Fallujah poorly prepared. A congressional investigation, reports the AP, concurred with that view saying that on the day of the ambush, Blackwater was "unprepared and disorderly."

The AP spoke to the brother of Jerko "Jerry" Zovco, one of the contractors killed.

"I guess this chapter is done but this story has not ended," Tom Zovko told the AP. "We were outfinanced, outgunned, outmanned in a sad similarity to what happened to Jerry, Wes and Mike. It's been an uphill battle the whole time."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.