Blackwater in nearly 200 shootings since 2005

AFP, 2 October 2007

WASHINGTON – Embattled private security firm Blackwater USA has been involved in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, according to a US congressional report released ahead of hearings on the company Tuesday.

Citing company information, the report by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform also said that although Blackwater’s security contract with the US State Department in Iraq says it can only use force defensively, Blackwater had fired first in more than 80 percent of the incidents.

The report issued Monday said that according to the company’s incident reports, “Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 ’escalation of force’ incidents since 2005 that involved the firing of shots by Blackwater forces.”

It noted that because Blackwater guards are usually shooting from moving vehicles and do not stop to count casualties, the company itself has reported 16 casualties in all the incidents since 2005, and 162 cases of property damage.

Blackwater has been under close scrutiny due to a shooting on September 16 involving company guards in a crowded Baghdad square that killed at least 10 Iraqis.

Nearly two weeks after the bloody shootout, the circumstances remain unclear, with Iraqis angry and indignant and the country’s leader having demanded Blackwater’s expulsion.

The House committee plans to hold a hearing on Tuesday into Blackwater’s role as a private military contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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