Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blackwater faces terrorism charges

The Iraqi Government may refer the case of a shooting incident by US private security company Blackwater to the Iraqi courts within days.

State Minister for National Security Affairs, Shirwan al-Waili, said the Government had received little information so far from the US side of a joint investigation. But he said the Iraqi probe into the shooting was largely completed and that he believed the findings were definitive.

"The shots fired on the Iraqis were unjustifiable," he said. "It was harsh and horrible. "

Waili did not spell out what the investigative committee would recommend to the court, but a preliminary report said "the murder of citizens in cold blood in the Nisour area by Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against civilians just like any other terrorist operations".

An Iraqi official, however, said Baghdad would not rush to expel the US firm because it would leave a "security vacuum" in the capital.

Iraqi investigators have said that they have a videotape showing that Blackwater guards opened fire against civilians without provocation.

The shooting happened while the contractors were escorting a US embassy convoy through Baghdad and eleven people were killed in the incident.

Meanwhile, a newspaper in North Carolina has reported US federal officials are investigating claims made by two former employees of the firm who pleaded guilty to weapons charges. The men are said to be cooperating with investigators as part of a plea bargain. According to the report, the firm was involved in the smuggling of automatic weapons into Iraq but the under-fire security contractor has denied the media reports.


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