Sameh A. Habeed
The Palestine Telegraph
April 22, 2009

Baghdad says it does not want the Blackwater “security company” to operate in Iraqi airspace or land … “under one name or another” and that Iraqi officials will press to secure compensation for the killings carried out by the US mercenary company.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Tuesday that the company – now calling itself Xe – will be active in the country at least until summer in some ground and air operations. Iraq is planning to take over some of the functions of the company – such as helicopter patrols – but needs at least until May 2010 to train local units.

[efoods]He gave no other details of when the last Blackwater/Xe units would leave Iraq, but insisted that the Iraqi goverment would continue to press for compensation for the deadly September 16, 2007 shooting and other violent incidents in which Iraqi civilians were killed by the company’s staff, who are mostly former military personnel lured by the far higher salaries to work as mercenaries for “security companies” such as Blackwater/Xe.

The US occupation administration granted legal immunity to these outfits for crimes committed in Iraq, which caused outrage in the country.

After 17 Iraqis were killed and another 20 wounded in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s busy Nisoor Square, Iraqi officials ruled that the North Carolina-based Blackwater would be barred from operating in the country. Despite the ban, the US State Department renewed the scandal-ridden Blackwater’s contract seven months later, in April 2008.

Al-Dabbagh said it was surprising to hear the company will work in Iraq longer than previously thought.

Iraq is currently making plans to take over some of the company’s roles, he said and added that a certain company will extend its work to help protect Iraqi airspace until next year. He insisted that he was not referring.

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