Monday, September 17, 2007

Iraq cancels Blackwater license following killing of civilians during State Department convoy; Reports give conflicting details on incident

Above: A private helicopter with 'security' forces employed by Blackwater hovers over Baghdad in 2004. Blackwater has provided protection for American diplomats across Iraq since the invasion in 2003.

Iraq orders halt to US firm's operations after shootout

Iraq ordered the cancellation on Monday of the operating licence of US security firm Blackwater after it was involved in a shootout in Baghdad that killed eight people, a senior official told AFP.

Blackwater offers personal security to US civilian officials working in Iraq.

"The interior minister (Jawad al-Bolani) has issued an order to cancel Blackwater's licence and the company is prohibited from operating anywhere in Iraq," interior ministry director of operations Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf said.

"We have opened a criminal investigation against the group who committed the crime."

Read the rest at AFP Google

Iraq revoking U.S. security firm's license

The Interior Ministry said it would prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force in the Sunday shooting. It was the latest accusation against the U.S.-contracted firms that operate with little or no supervision and are widely disliked by Iraqis who resent their speeding motorcades and forceful behavior...

Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., provides security for many U.S. civilian operations in the country.

The secretive company, run by a former Navy SEAL, has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq and at least $800 million in government contracts. It is one of the most high-profile security firms in Iraq, with its fleet of "Little Bird" helicopters and armed door gunners swarming Baghdad and beyond...

Tens of thousands of foreign private security contractors work in Iraq -- some with automatic weapons, body armor, helicopters and bulletproof vehicles -- to provide protection for Westerners and dignitaries in Iraq as the country has plummeted toward anarchy and civil war

Read the rest at the LA Times

Iraq revokes security contractor license after shootout

An Interior Ministry spokesman said security personnel working for contractors Blackwater had opened fire after mortar rounds landed near their cars in Nusour Square in the western Baghdad district of Mansour.

"By chance the company was passing by. They opened fire randomly at citizens," Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said. Eleven people were killed, including one policeman, and 13 people were wounded, he said.

A U.S. embassy spokesman said the shooting took place after a car bomb exploded when U.S. diplomats were nearby.

"The car bomb was in proximity to a place where State Department personnel were meeting. That is why Blackwater responded to the incident," spokesman Johann Schmonsees said.

Read the rest at Reuters

Blackwater license being revoked in Iraq

Underscoring the seriousness of the matter, the State Department said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned to call Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to express regret and assure him that the U.S. has launched an investigation into the matter to ensure nothing like it happens again...

The U.S. Embassy said a State Department motorcade came under small-arms fire that disabled one of the vehicles, which had to be towed from the scene near Nisoor Square in the Mansour district.

"There was a convoy of State Department personnel and a car bomb went off in proximity to them and there was an exchange of fire as the personnel were returning to the International Zone," embassy spokesman Johann Schmonsees said, referring to the heavily fortified U.S.-protected area in central Baghdad also known as the Green Zone...

The embassy also refused to answer any questions on Blackwater's status or legal issues, saying it was seeking clarification on the issue as part of the investigation.

Read the rest at Yahoo News

Iraq shootout firm loses licence

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.

The Blackwater security guards "opened fire randomly at citizens" after mortars landed near their vehicles, killing eight people and wounding 13 others, interior ministry officials said.

Most of the dead and wounded were bystanders, the officials added. One of those killed was a policeman.

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Baghdad later confirmed there had been an incident in which state department security personnel reacted to a car bomb "in the proximity", and that they had been shot at.

Read the rest at BBC news

Security Firm’s License Is Pulled in Iraq

“This is a big crime that we can’t stay silent before,” said Jawad al-Bolani, Iraq’s interior minister, speaking on satellite television. “Anyone who wants to have good relations with Iraq has to respect Iraqis.”

The incident took place on Sunday in Nisour Square, an area in western Baghdad that is clogged with construction and concrete blocks. American officials said that a convoy of State Department vehicles came under fire, causing one to break down. It was towed. The officials did not say whether any of the convoy’s security guards fired back or whether they worked for Blackwater.

Shortly before the incident, a car bomb had detonated some distance away, according to an Interior Ministry official, and mortars had landed in an Iraqi Army base that has guard towers overlooking the square. A grocery shop owner, Abu Muhammad, reported seeing two helicopters firing down into the area, apparently reacting to the nearby explosions.

Read the rest at the NY Times

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