Blackwater Mercenaries Shoot Up Civilians, Police in Baghdad; License Revoked

Iraq announced on Monday it had withdrawn the license of a U.S. security firm and would prosecute employees it said were involved in a shooting in Baghdad in which 11 people were killed.

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.

The U.S. military said on Sunday security contractors working for the State Department were involved in an incident, but gave no further details.

No one was immediately available to comment at Blackwater offices in North Carolina.

"We have withdrawn its license," Khalaf said, adding that the ministry had also formed a committee to investigate the incident and "deliver those who committed this act to the court."

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki condemned the shooting and vowed to punish the perpetrators and their employers.

"We will work to punish and halt the work of the security company which conducted this criminal act," state television quoted him as saying.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said security contractors "must respect Iraqi laws and the right of Iraqis to independence on their land."

"These cases have happened more than once and we can't keep silent in the face of them," he told Arabiya television.

Thousands of private security contractors, many of them American and European, have worked in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Many Iraqis believe they operate outside the law with little accountability either to the Iraqi government or U.S. military forces.

Khalaf did not say how many contractors were involved in the shooting. He said the investigating committee had gone to the scene and spoken to witnesses, and would also visit the company's compound in Baghdad.

AlterNet is making this material available in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.