"Blackwater security firm banned from Iraq"
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater Security Consulting, an American firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead.
U.S. soldiers talk with Iraqi shopkeepers while patrolling Sunday in Baghdad.
The firefight took place near Nisoor Square about noon, an Interior Ministry official said Sunday. In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded, most of them civilians, the official said.
Details were sketchy, but the official said witnesses reported that one side of the gunbattle involved Westerners driving sport utility vehicles, which security contractors often use. The state television network al-Iraqiya reported that a Western security company was involved in the shootout, but it did not identify the firm.
An official with the U.S. Embassy told The Associated Press that a State Department motorcade came under small-arms fire near Nisoor Square, and one of the vehicles was disabled.
The official said no State Department officials were injured but provided no information on Iraqi casualties, the AP reported.
Blackwater is one of many security firms contracted by the U.S. government during the Iraq war. An estimated 25,000-plus employees of private security firms are working in Iraq, guarding diplomats, reconstruction workers and government officials. As many as 200 are believed to have been killed on the job, according to U.S. congressional reports.
"We have revoked Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. As of now they are not allowed to operate anywhere in the Republic of Iraq," Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf said Monday. "The investigation is ongoing, and all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice."
In a statement carried Sunday on al-Iraqiya, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said his government would punish those responsible and bar the company involved from working in Iraq.
Iraqi authorities have issued previous complaints about shootings by private military contractors, but Iraqi courts do not have the authority to bring contractors to trial, according to a July report from the Congressional Research Service.
This will either be a test of whether the Iraqi government has any power whatsoever to stand up to the U.S. government, or it will be something that they all quickly come to an "agreement" about and apologies will be made, and Blackwater will continue to have its thousands of mercenaries trolling about Iraq.
At very least, maybe it will be the trigger to start opening people's eyes to how the U.S. goes about occupying foreign nations these days. Blackwater is one of those things that U.S. citizens need to know more about.
Likely, however, nothing will come of it - losing Blackwater would be too big a blow for the occupation. There's no way the U.S. will allow it's group of private soldiers, and the profiteers behind them, be left in the cold.