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Indybay Feature
Mon Sep 17 2007 (Updated 09/24/07)
Blackwater Security banned from Iraq?
Mon Sep 17 2007 (Updated 09/24/07)
Iraqi Government May Boot Blackwater USA
Sept 21st Update: An Iraqi interior ministry investigation has found that Blackwater is "100% guilty" of the incident in which 11 Iraqi civilians were killed, but the US security firm has resumed limited operations in the Iraqi capital.
Iraq Relents on Blackwater | Democracy Now Report | WSWS Report

On Monday September 17th Iraq's Interior Ministry revoked the license of Blackwater USA and demanded that all employees leave the country. The ban followed a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead. The Interior Ministry said authorities will prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force and "all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice." On Tuesday, the Iraqi government softened its stance, saying that the ban on Blackwater was not permanent, but warned it planned to review the legal immunity of all private security companies. Some commentators doubt that Blackwater will be expelled at all or if any US nationals will be turned over to Iraqi authorities.

Blackwater USA is a private military company and security firm. Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark, it is based in North Carolina where it operates a tactical training facility which it claims is the world's largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies.

In 2003, Blackwater landed its first high-profile contract: guarding Ambassador L. Paul Bremer in Iraq. On March 31, 2004, Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah ambushed a convoy containing four American private military contractors from Blackwater who were conducting delivery for food caterers. The bodies were then hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates. Family members of those killed later sued the company for wrongful death. Blackwater has countersued for $10 million on the grounds that the lawsuit is in violation of contractual agreements signed by the men prior to deployment.

Since June 2004, Blackwater has been paid more than $320 million out of a $1 billion, five-year State Department budget for the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which protects U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones. In 2006, Blackwater won the remunerative contract to protect the U.S. embassy in Iraq, which is the largest American embassy in the world.

It is estimated by the Pentagon and company representatives that there are 20,000 to 30,000 armed security contractors working in Iraq, and some estimates are as much as 100,000, though no official figures exist.

Can Iraq (or Anyone) Hold Blackwater Accountable for Killing Iraqi Civilians? | Iraq expands US security firm probe | Iraq row grounds US diplomats | Largest Mercenary Army: Blackwater | Jeremy Scahill Responds to Blackwater CEO Erik Prince | Making a Killing: America's Private Army and the Business of War | The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army | The American "civilian contractors" killed in Falluja | Blackwater Plans for New Military Facility Near San Diego
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