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Iraqi government may ban Blackwater security group

An incident that left eight Iraqi civilians dead has raised concerns about the private military contractor in Iraq.

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The Iraqi government said it would suspend the license of Blackwater, probably the most famous among the armies of private security contractors working inside Iraq, after an incident in central Baghdad in which government officials allege eight civilians were killed. The incident looks certain to rekindle the controversy of the wide role given to the contractors in the Iraq war, with critics saying that they operate outside the sorts of legal oversight and codes of conduct that restrict the behavior of soldiers in war zones.

Blackwater first became famous after four of its contractors were murdered in Fallujah in early 2004, an event that prompted an American assault on that city that engendered widespread anger against the US inside the country.

Reuters reports that the government is vowing a tough line with Blackwater, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki saying the incident was a "criminal act." An Interior Ministry spokesman said the contractors, working for a US security firm, "opened fire randomly at citizens" on Sunday after mortar rounds landed near their cars.

"We formed a committee to investigate the incident and withdraw the license from this company and also to deliver those who committed this act to the court," Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf told Reuters.
The U.S. military said on Sunday security contractors working for the State Department were involved in an incident, but gave no further details.
Khalaf said the contractors opened fire after two mortar rounds landed in Nusour Square in the western Baghdad district of Mansour.
"By chance the company was passing by. They opened fire randomly at citizens," Khalaf said. Eleven people were killed, including one policeman, and 13 people were wounded, he said.
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