NORFOLK, Va., Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Two former Blackwater security employees facing trial for killing two Afghan civilians in Kabul say they readily admit they opened fire on them in May 2009.
In a trial set to begin Tuesday, a jury will have to determine if the former firearms instructors fired in self-defense or in violation of the law, firing intentionally "with extreme disregard for human life," The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported.
Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach and Justin Cannon, 28, of Corpus Christi, Texas, are charged with murder in the shooting deaths of two Afghan nationals in the capital of Kabul.
They say they acted in self-defense when a car with two Afghans in it came barreling at them.
The U.S. government brought murder charges, alleging Drotleff and Cannon fired their weapons without justification. It also claims the two had been drinking alcohol that day.
If federal prosecutors secure a conviction, it will be a rare one in a time of war, legal experts say.
The government has had mixed success in prosecuting soldiers and civilians for war-time crimes, they say.
"The fact is, it does seem to be surprising how difficult it is for the military to bring these cases and get convictions," said Eugene R. Fidell, Yale Law School professor and president of the National Institute of Military Justice.
"But we have an obligation to investigate and prosecute war crimes."