US will not renew Blackwater contract in Iraq

Blackwater's guards are accused of killing Iraqi civilians.

US will not renew Blackwater contract in Iraq

The U.S. State Department has told Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm whose guards are accused of killing Iraqi civilians, that it will not renew its contract in Iraq.

Iraq will ban the licence of Blackwater Worldwide because its contractors used excessive force, sanctioning a company whose image was irrevocably tarnished by the 2007 killings of 17 Iraqi civilians, U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Thursday.

Iraqis are bitter over the September 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. Five former Blackwater guards pleaded not guilty Jan. 6 in federal court in Washington to manslaughter and gun charges in that shooting. A sixth is cooperating with the government.

One Blackwater guard has pleaded guilty in U.S. court to voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter over that incident, while five others are awaiting trial next year on manslaughter and other charges.

"The department notified Blackwater in writing on Jan. 29 that we do not plan to renew the company's existing contract for protective security details in Iraq," said State Department spokesman Richard Aker.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell was unable to confirm the State Department decision.

The State Department's decision is not expected to have any practical effect until May, when Blackwater's current contract for Iraq expires.

Blackwater employs hundreds of heavily armed guards with a fleet of armored vehicles and helicopters over what it is called as protection U.S. diplomats in Iraq under a State Department contract.

The presence of security contractors, often as heavily armed as the military itself, has been a signature feature of the war in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 ordered by then Republican President George W. Bush.

Blackwater was a target of Iraqi anger even before the 2007 shooting because of its size, high profile and aggressive posture on the streets.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki branded the 2007 shooting incident a "massacre" and complained when the State Department subsequently renewed Blackwater's contract.

Reuters
Last Mod: 31 Ocak 2009, 14:43
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