South Asia

Former US security men deny Afghan civilian killings

Blackwater helicopter in Iraq. 2006
Image caption Blackwater operated extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan

Two ex-employees of a US security company killed two Afghan nationals while fuelled by alcohol and rage, a US court has heard.

Prosecutors in the state of Virginia say that Justin Cannon and Christopher Drotleff opened fire at the scene of a road accident in Kabul.

They worked for a security company run by a firm formerly known as Blackwater.

Their lawyers deny murder charges, saying they opened fire because they believed they were under attack.

If convicted of murder, assault and weapons charges, Mr Cannon, from Texas, and Mr Drotleff from Virginia, could be imprisoned for life.

Their trial began on Wednesday in a US District Court and is expected to last two to three weeks.

They worked for Paravant, part of Xe - formerly Blackwater - which was blamed for killing civilians in Iraq in 2007.

The pair were in Afghanistan to provide weapons training to the Afghan National Army as contractors with Paravant.

Prosecutors said the pair were "a disaster waiting to happen" in May last year, as they had been drinking for several hours after two of their superiors were fired.

"They were drinking. They were driving. They were armed and they were out of control," said Robert McGovern, a Department of Justice lawyer.

Both sides agree that the men left their camp to drive two Afghan interpreters and another man to a taxi stand late at night on a road known for attacks on Americans.

When one of the vehicles in their convoy crashed, they allegedly shot at a car that sped from the crash scene.

Prosecutors say that the men fired about 30 rounds - Mr Cannon with an AK47 and Mr Drotleff with a 9mm pistol - hitting two men in the car and a man who was walking his dog with a friend.

One man in the car and the man on the street died from bullet wounds

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