Iraq to seize security contractors’ heavy weapons
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 17, 2010
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will seize heavy weapons from foreign security firms and expel within days ex-Blackwater contractors still in the country, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said on Wednesday.
The decision follows Iraqi government outrage at the dismissal by a U.S. court of charges against Blackwater Worldwide guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
It also comes ahead of a parliamentary election on March 7 in which Bolani is running at the head of his own coalition against a slate headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Bolani said he had “ordered that the heavy weapons used by some of the foreign security firms be collected.” Speaking to Reuters at a campaign event, he gave no further details and did not clarify whether that included licensed weapons.
He reiterated that he had ordered all former employees of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, to be kicked out of Iraq.
“We gave them a deadline to leave Iraq. It will expire in the next few days,” he said. He declined to say what would happen to former Blackwater workers if they did not leave or how the Interior Ministry knew if someone had worked for Blackwater in the past.
He said most former employees had left when the company lost its license to operate last year. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh had previously said there was no official order expelling former Blackwater workers.
The Blackwater incident in 2007 came to symbolise for many Iraqis the impunity from prosecution in Iraq enjoyed by foreign security contractors after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Their immunity from prosecution was lifted last year under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that gave Iraq back its sovereignty.
Since then, Iraqi security forces and foreign contractors have come close to blows at checkpoints as Iraqi troops make clear to heavily armed foreigners that Iraqis are now in charge.
The decision by a U.S. federal court in December to dismiss charges against the Blackwater security guards accused of killing the civilians produced an immediate crackdown by Iraqi police on the operations of security contractors in Iraq.
Maliki’s government has hired U.S. lawyers to prepare a law suit against Blackwater.
The guards said they shot in self-defense in the incident, which occurred during some of the worst sectarian violence in Iraq. The U.S. government is appealing the dismissal. Original Story here