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Blackwater: private US security firm mired in Iraq controversy

The Guardian (2009-01-29) Audrey Gillan

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More Info: Blackwater, Iraq War, Private Mercenaries

Blackwater: private US security firm mired in Iraq controversy

Contractor effectively kicked out of Iraq over alleged killing of civilians

Founded by the former US Navy Seal Erik Prince, Blackwater seized on the burgeoning private security contracts that emerged after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was awarded the $21m (£14.7m) contract to protect members of the Coalition Provisional Authority as its personnel travelled around the war-torn country.

Currently the largest of the US state department's private security contractors, it has earned more than $1bn from the US government in the last nine years.

But it has been mired in controversy, being involved in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, according to a congressional report.

Earlier this month, five former guards from the company pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and gun charges in connection with the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's crowded Nisour Square. The company said in a statement: "Blackwater does not have access to all of the information gathered by federal investigators. Based on the information available to us, we understand that these individuals acted within the rules set forth for them by the government and that no criminal violations occurred. It is important to note that these men are presumed innocent, that an indictment is only the first step in the judicial process, and that these men have not been convicted of anything."

With a headquarters based in Moyock, North Carolina, the company was named after the Great Dismal Swamp, the area of wetland on which its facilities were built. The company has thousands of ex-forces personnel on its books.

It recently announced that it wished to expand its work to take on anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia and was ready to send its ship, the Mc Carthur, to the area to escort potential targets passing through the Gulf of Aden.

The Blackwater Worldwide website says: "Blackwater was founded in 1997 to support the training needs of the United States military and law enforcement communities. Since then, Blackwater has trained more than 100,000 local police officers, SWAT [special weapons and tactics] team members, homeland security professionals, military personnel and others to help prepare them to serve and protect US citizens at home and abroad. Blackwater trains approximately 500 members of the military and law enforcement agencies every day."

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Title Blackwater: private US security firm mired in Iraq controversy
Publisher The Guardian
Author Audrey Gillan
Pub Date 2009-01-29
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Keywords Blackwater, Iraq War, Private Mercenaries
Media Type Linked Article
Media Group News
Curator Rating Plain
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Topic revision: r1 - 02 Feb 2009, RaymondLutz
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