2004 Fallujah ambush

Last updated
31 March 2004 Fallujah ambush
Part of Iraq War
Target Blackwater USA personnel
DateMarch 31, 2004 (2004-03-31)
Executed by Iraqi insurgents
Casualties4 killed

The 2004 Fallujah ambush occurred on March 31, 2004, when Iraqi insurgents attacked a convoy containing four American contractors from the private military company Blackwater USA who were conducting a delivery for food caterers ESS. [1]

A private military company (PMC) is a private company providing armed combat or security services for financial gain. PMCs refer to their staff as "security contractors" or "private military contractors". Private military companies refer to their business generally as the "private military industry" or "The Circuit".

Eurest Support Services (ESS) is a subsidiary of the catering company Compass Group PLC specializing in harsh-environment large-scale food service and facilities management. Its primary clients are military forces and other security services, major defense contractors, and construction, mining, and oil exploration and production facilities worldwide.


The ambush

The four armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Mike Teague, were killed and dragged from their vehicles. Their bodies were beaten and burned, with their charred corpses then dragged through the city streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates River. [2]

Stephen "Scott" Helvenston was a United States Navy SEAL. He was working as a security contractor for Blackwater Security when he was killed in the 31 March 2004 Fallujah ambush within days of arriving in Iraq.


Photos of the event, showing jubilant Iraqis posing with the charred corpses, were then released to news agencies worldwide, which caused a great deal of indignation in the United States. This prompted the announcement of a counter-insurgency campaign in the city.

News agency organization that gathers news reports and sells them to subscribing news organizations

A news agency is an organization that gathers news reports and sells them to subscribing news organizations, such as newspapers, magazines and radio and television broadcasters. A news agency may also be referred to as a wire service, newswire, or news service.


The ambush led to the First Battle of Fallujah, a U.S.-led operation to retake control of the city. However, the battle was halted mid-way for political reasons, an outcome which commentators have described as either a stalemate or an insurgent victory. [3] [4] [5] Seven months later, in November 2004, a second attempt at capturing the city, the Second Battle of Fallujah, proved successful.

First Battle of Fallujah Early 2004 battle of the Iraq War

The First Battle of Fallujah, also known as Operation Vigilant Resolve, was an operation to root out extremist elements of Fallujah as well as an attempt to apprehend the perpetrators of the killing of four U.S. contractors in March 2004.

Second Battle of Fallujah Late 2004 battle of the Iraq War

The Second Battle of Fallujah—code-named Operation Al-Fajr and Operation Phantom Fury—was a joint American, Iraqi government, and British offensive in November and December 2004, considered the highest point of conflict in Fallujah during the Iraq War. It was led by the U.S. Marines and U.S Army against the Iraqi insurgents in the city of Fallujah and was authorized by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Interim Government. The U.S. military called it "some of the heaviest urban combat U.S. Marines and Soldiers have been involved in since the Battle of Huế City in Vietnam in 1968."

Intelligence reports concluded that Ahmad Hashim Abd al-Isawi was the mastermind behind the attack, and was not captured until a successful Navy SEAL operation in 2009. [6] al-Isawi was held for a time by the United States intelligence community and testified at one of the 2010 courts-martial of SEALs he accused of mistreating him while detained at Camp Schwedler. [7] He was subsequently handed over to Iraqi authorities for trial and executed by hanging some time before November 2013. [8]

Ahmad Hashim Abd al-Isawi was an al Qaeda terrorist operating in Iraq in the early 2000s. He earned the nickname the Butcher of Fallujah within US military and intelligence circles after he allegedly masterminded the ambush and killing of four American military contractors whose bodies were then dragged by a spontaneously formed mob and hung from the old bridge over the Euphrates river in Fallujah, Iraq. In September 2009, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs captured al-Isawi in a nighttime raid in Fallujah, and he was charged with orchestrating the slayings. He was held for a time by the United States intelligence community and accused some of the SEALs who captured him of mistreating him while detained at Camp Schwedler. al-Isawi was subsequently handed over to Iraqi authorities and was awaiting his own trial when he testified at one of the resulting 2010 courts-martial. His own trial was held some time before November 2013, and al-Isawi was executed by hanging for the killings.

A court-martial or court martial is a military court or a trial conducted in such a court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment. In addition, courts-martial may be used to try prisoners of war for war crimes. The Geneva Convention requires that POWs who are on trial for war crimes be subject to the same procedures as would be the holding military's own forces. Finally, courts-martial can be convened for other purposes, such as dealing with violations of martial law, and can involve civilian defendants.

Hanging suspension of a person by a ligature

Hanging is the suspension of a person by a noose or ligature around the neck. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain "hanging". Hanging has been a common method of capital punishment since medieval times, and is the primary execution method in numerous countries and regions. The first known account of execution by hanging was in Homer's Odyssey. In this specialised meaning of the common word hang, the past and past participle is hanged instead of hung.

2005 lawsuit

The families of the victims filed suit (Helvenston et al. v. Blackwater Security) against Blackwater USA for wrongful death in January 2005.

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Academi is an American private military company founded in 1997 by former Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince as Blackwater, renamed as Xe Services in 2009 and known as Academi since 2011 after the company was acquired by a group of private investors. The company received widespread notoriety in 2007, when a group of its employees were convicted of killing 14 Iraqi civilians and injuring 20 in Nisour Square, Baghdad for which four guards were convicted in a U.S. court.

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  1. Contractors - The High-Risk Contracting Business | Private Warriors | FRONTLINE | PBS.
  2. Bing West (2005). No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah . Bantam Books. pp. 3–4. ISBN   978-0-553-80402-7.
  3. West xxii. "The Second Phase began in March 2004, when four American contractors were killed and the bodies mutilated in broad daylight in the heart of the city. The US Marines were ordered to seize the city, but then, due to international outrage over televised reportage of the assault, were told to stop. For six weeks the Marines engaged in fierce but inconclusive siege warfare."
  4. LeBleu, Joe. "Long Rifle: A Sniper's Story in Iraq and Afghanistan", p. 201. "In mid-April 2003, President Bush decided not to secure Fallujah...laying the groundwork for later U.S. failure there."
  5. Scahill, Jeremy. "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army", p. 205. "The horrors unfolding in Fallujah, coupled with the U.S. failure to take control of the city, and the bold resistance of Fallujah's residents was encouraging other Iraqis to rise up."
  6. Deignan, Tom (December 22, 2013). "Navy SEALS tragedy in Afghanistan chronicled in new film, "Lone Survivors"". IrishCentral. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  7. CNN Wire Staff (April 22, 2010). "Navy SEAL not guilty of charges in Iraq". CNN . Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  8. Hartwell, Ray V. (November 26, 2013). "Persecuting Our Heroes". The American Spectator . Retrieved December 7, 2016.