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Iraqi Government says US Security Firm Suspended, Not Expelled

19 September 2007

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says the company that provides bodyguards to U.S. diplomats in Iraq has been suspended while the government investigates a deadly shooting incident involving the firm last Sunday. The government said earlier it was expelling the private security firm. VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his country will not tolerate the cold-blooded killing of its citizens.

Iraq's Interior Ministry has suspended the license of security company Blackwater, and has said it is reviewing all security companies working in the country.

Mr. Maliki says Sunday's shooting is the seventh troubling incident involving Blackwater, which provides armed escorts for U.S. government civilian employees in Iraq.

A U.S. embassy official, Mirembe Natongo, has urged journalists and others to wait until an investigation is complete before drawing conclusions.

"Both the Iraqi government and the American government are working closely in this incident, and also to address the security companies that work in Iraq. Again the United States expresses its deep condolences, for the casualties," Natongo said.

Iraqi officials have said at least 11 people died after Blackwater guards began shooting in a busy part of Baghdad.

A news report in The New York Times says a preliminary Interior Ministry investigation found Blackwater guards fired at a car that ignored a police order to stop, killing two adults and an infant.

The company has a different version of events, saying there was an attack on the convoy it was protecting and Blackwater guards responded in a lawful and appropriate fashion.

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats and civilian officials are not supposed to travel by land out of Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. Natongo says the travel restrictions are hurting some U.S. programs and will be reviewed frequently to see if they are still necessary.

In other news, the U.S. military says gunfire killed an American soldier Tuesday in southern Baghdad.

The military says coalition forces killed one Iraqi terrorist linked to Iran's elite Quds force and detained seven suspects Wednesday in northern Baghdad and in Balad Ruz, northeast of the capital. It also says Iraqi soldiers and U.S. special forces killed an al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist and detained 18 others in northern Iraq on Monday and Tuesday.

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