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Iraq | International | Anti-War

Iraq shootout firm loses licence
by BBC (reposted)
Monday Sep 17th, 2007 8:08 AM
Monday, September 17, 2007 : Iraq cancels the licence of US private security firm Blackwater after eight civilians die in a shootout.
Blackwater security personnel on board a helicopter in Baghdad (2005)

As many as 20,000 private security contractors are working in Iraq

The Iraqi interior ministry said the contractor, based in North Carolina, was now banned from operating in Iraq.

The Blackwater workers, who were contracted by the US state department, apparently opened fire after coming under attack in Baghdad on Sunday.

Thousands of private security guards are employed in lawless Iraq.

They are often heavily armed, but critics say some are not properly trained and are not accountable except to their employers.

The interior ministry's director of operations, Maj Gen Abdul Karim Khalaf, said authorities would prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force.

"We have opened a criminal investigation against the group who committed the crime," he told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

All Blackwater personnel have been told to leave Iraq immediately, with the exception of the men involved in the incident on Sunday.

They will have to remain the country and stand trial, the ministry said.

US investigation

The convoy carrying officials from the US state department came under attack at about 1230 local time on Sunday as it passed through Nisoor Square in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour.

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§Iraq ends US security firm licence
by Al Jazeera (reposted) Monday Sep 17th, 2007 8:13 AM
Monday, September 17, 2007 : Blackwater security banned from operating in Iraq after shooting incident.

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The Iraqi interior ministry has cancelled the operating licence of a US security firm after it was involved in a shootout that killed eight people, a senior official said. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a ministry spokesman, said 13 people were wounded when Blackwater USA staff opened fire in a Baghdad incident involving an attack on a US motorcade.

"The interior minister has issued an order to cancel Blackwater's licence and the company is prohibited from operating anywhere in Iraq," Khalaf said on Monday. "We have opened a criminal investigation against the group who committed the crime."

The spokesman said witness reports pointed to Blackwater involvement but said the incident, in a predominantly Sunni area of western Baghdad on Sunday, was still under investigation. US troops are immune from prosecution in Iraq under the UN resolution that authorises their presence, but Khalaf said the exemption did not apply to private security companies.

'Crime' committed

Blackwater, based in North Carolina, provides security for many US civilian operations in the country.

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§Iraq tells US security company to leave after civilian deaths
by via UK Independent Tuesday Sep 18th, 2007 7:45 AM
Tuesday, September 18, 2007 : The Iraqi government has ordered the American private security contractor Blackwater, which provides protection for US officials in the country, to shut down its operations after its guards were accused of killing 10 civilians and injuring 13 others in Baghdad.

Employees of the company are alleged to have opened fire indiscriminately after a bomb exploded on Sunday in the Mansour district of the city, packed with people shopping for Ramadan.

The Iraqi government's decision, personally endorsed by the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is the strongest measure taken yet against private security contractors, who have been repeatedly accused of carrying out unprovoked shootings of Iraqi civilians.

Yesterday, in an extraordinary telephone news conference, the US embassy spokeswoman could not answer whether the company was still working for the Americans inside the Green Zone, or what its legal position was along with similar foreign contractors within Iraq.

The shooting started after a car bomb blast killed two soldiers and lasted for more than 20 minutes, with civilians seeking safety in stores and behind cars. Afterwards the Blackwater convoy roared away from the scene, shoving cars out of their way with their armoured four-wheel-drive sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

Initially, the US embassy said the contractors, who were providing security for State Department officials at a meeting, had reacted after coming under small arms fire. Later, however, it said they had "reacted to the bombing".

The Independent, which was present in Mansour at the time of the bombing and shooting, spoke to Iraqis caught up in the incident who described foreigners dressed in civilian uniforms opening fire without warning from their vehicles at cars and people in the street.

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by IOL (reposted)
Tuesday Sep 18th, 2007 7:27 AM
BAGHDAD — The tragic killing of eight Iraqi civilians has revived a heated debate about the role of American security contractors in war-ravaged Iraq.

"The interior minister has issued an order to cancel Blackwater's license and the company is prohibited from operating anywhere in Iraq," Interior Ministry Director of Operations Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf said.

A US diplomatic convoy came under attack on Sunday, September 16, in Baghdad's Al-Yarmukh neighborhood of west Baghdad.

The private security contractors accompanying the convoy responded by opening fire and killing eight Iraqis.

Witnesses and victims lying in hospital suffering gunshot wounds said the Blackwater guards had opened indiscriminate fire into the crowded streets and at cars trapped behind the convoy.

When the pandemonium had died down, at least eight people were dead and 13 wounded.

"The foreigners in the convoy started shouting and signaling us to go back. I turned around and must have driven 100 feet (30 meters) when they started shooting," said lawyer Hassan Jabar Salman.

He was hit by five bullets while trying to flee the scene in his car and is being treated in Baghdad's Al-Yarmukh Hospital.

"My car was hit with 12 bullets, of which four hit me in the back and one in the arm," he said as he lay wrapped in bloodied bandages on the hospital bed.

"There were eight of them in four utility vehicles and all shooting with heavy machine guns."

Salman said he had seen a woman and a traffic policeman killed and dozens of people hitting the ground to avoid the barrage of bullets.

"We have opened a criminal investigation against the group who committed the crime," said Khalaf, the interior ministry official.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had condemned the "criminal" response of the contractors guarding the convoy.

There have been several other similar incidents involving private security contractors in the Iraqi capital.

The contractors are often accused of firing randomly and speeding through the crowded streets of Baghdad to avoid attack.

Blackwater Mercenaries

US Embassy information officer W. Johann Schmonsees told reporters that Blackwater had not "been expelled from the country yet".

"We are continuing to discuss with the Iraqi government," he said.

No representatives from Blackwater, which offers personal security to US civilian officials working in Iraq, were immediately available for comment.

Blackwater's security consulting division holds at least 109 million dollars worth of State Department contracts in Iraq and is authorized to use deadly force, the Washington Post said in June.

It employs nearly 1,000 people in Iraq and operates a fleet of helicopters offering security to US embassy officials and other Americans and escorts for convoys on the country's dangerous roads.

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BAGHDAD: The Iraqi government said Tuesday that a ban on Blackwater USA was not permanent but warned it planned to review the immunity enjoyed by some private security companies following a fatal shooting of civilians near a State Department convoy.

A series of bombings, meanwhile, ripped through Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens, police said.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said he understood the need for protection for Westerners and dignitaries but that preliminary findings showed Blackwater used excessive force in Sunday's shooting.

He said more than 20 people were killed and 35 wounded — more than double the death toll released by the Interior Ministry.

Blackwater has insisted its employees acted in self-defense and that those killed were armed combatants who threatened State Department personnel.

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http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/18/africa/ME-GEN-Iraq.php