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Blackwater Back on Patrol in Baghdad As Shootings Probe Continues
Monday, September 24, 2007 : On Monday, the Iraqi government said it will await the outcome of an investigation into last Sunday's killing of at least 11 people by Blackwater USA in Baghdad before taking any action against the company. The statement comes one day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the shooting deaths pose "a serious challenge to the sovereignty of Iraq." We speak with Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army."
The controversy continues over the role of private security companies operating in Iraq. On Monday, the Iraqi government said it will await the outcome of an investigation into last Sunday's killing of at least 11 people by Blackwater USA before taking any action against the company.
The statement comes one day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the shooting deaths pose "a serious challenge to the sovereignty of Iraq" and cannot be accepted. Al-Maliki is expected to raise the issue with President Bush today during a meeting in New York.
Following the September 16th shooting in Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry banned Blackwater from operating in Iraq but backtracked after the U.S. agreed to a joint investigation. The company resumed guarding a reduced number of U.S. convoys on Friday. An Iraqi government spokesman told reporters in Baghdad on Sunday that immediately expelling Blackwater from Iraq would create a "security vacuum."
Meanwhile, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Saturday that Iraqi authorities had completed their own investigation into the shooting and concluded that Blackwater guards were responsible for the deaths. The spokesperson told The Associated Press that the conclusion was based on witness statements as well as videotape shot by cameras at the nearby headquarters of the national police command. The interior ministry has referred the case to a magistrate to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. However, it is unclear if the Iraqi government could prosecute Blackwater. A directive issued by U.S. occupation authorities in 2004 granted contractors, U.S. troops and many other foreign officials immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry said it was also investigating if Blackwater had been involved in six other violent incidents in Iraq that left at least 10 people dead.