September 17, 2007
|Blackwater Banned In Iraq||Iraq|
Iraq's Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead. The U.S. State Department said it plans to investigate what it calls a "terrible incident."
In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded, most of them civilians, an Iraqi official said. [...]
Sunday's firefight took place near Nusoor Square, an area that straddles the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Mansour and Yarmouk.
The ministry said the incident began around midday, when a convoy of sport utility vehicles came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the square. The men in the SUVs, described by witnesses as Westerners, returned fire, the ministry said.
One witness told The Associated Press that he heard an explosion before the gunfire began.
"We saw a convoy of SUVs passing in the street nearby," Hussein Abdul-Abbas, owner of a mobile phone store in the area, told the AP. "One minute later, we heard the sound of a bomb explosion followed by gunfire that lasted for 20 minutes between gunmen and the convoy people who were foreigners and dressed in civilian clothes. Everybody in the street started to flee immediately."
A team from another security company passed through the area a few minutes afterward.
"Our people saw a couple of cars destroyed," Carter Andress, CEO of American-Iraqi Solutions Groups, told CNN on Monday. "Dead bodies, wounded people being evacuated. The U.S. military had moved in and secured the area. It was not a good scene."
An Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, said, "We have revoked Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. As of now they are not allowed to operate anywhere in the Republic of Iraq. The investigation is ongoing, and all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice." [Emphasis added]
This is going to be interesting. Will the Iraqi government be allowed to make this stick?