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Blackwater Iraq Contract Renewed

State Department extends contract with private security firm for one year despite civilian killings.
 
 
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The US State Department said Friday it is extending its diplomat protection contract for private security firm Blackwater USA, despite the incident last September in which Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians.

"I have requested and received approval to have Task Order 6, which Blackwater has to provide personal protective services in Baghdad, renewed for one year," said Gregory Starr at the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Blackwater is the most controversial of several private security firms tasked with protecting high-profile US officials and foreign dignitaries visiting Iraq.

Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians while escorting a US diplomat through Baghdad in a September 16, 2007 incident that the Iraqi government considers a crime. Blackwater claims its guards reacted in self-defense.

The company's contract was set to expire on May 7. It was renewed because Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have not yet concluded their inquiry into the September shooting, Starr said.

The US government, and especially US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, "will take a very close look at the FBI reports and then we will decide whether it is consistent with the US government goals and policies to continue the contract of Blackwater," said Starr.

Foreign security companies at present are not subject to Iraq law, but at the same time are not governed by US military tribunals, allowing them to operate without any repercussions for their actions.

 
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