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Iraq tells private guards to surrender guns, leave

Thu., Feb. 11, 2010

BAGHDAD – Iraq has given hundreds of guards linked to the private security company formerly known as Blackwater a week to leave the country or face arrest, Interior Ministry officials said Wednesday.

The order follows the dismissal in December by a U.S. federal judge of murder charges against five Blackwater guards accused of killing Iraqi civilians in a 2007 shooting incident on Baghdad’s Nisour Square.

The Iraqi government claimed 17 people died in the shooting, in which Blackwater guards opened fire on the busy square after they came under attack, though an FBI investigation found 14 deaths.

About 250 guards employed by Blackwater at the time of the shooting have been told that they must surrender their weapons and leave the country within seven days, said an Interior Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In 2009, the U.S. State Department gave Blackwater’s contract to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq to another security company, Triple Canopy, and Blackwater changed its name to Xe. Many former Blackwater guards went to work for Triple Canopy, which is now responsible for guarding the U.S. Embassy, and some found work with other security companies in Iraq.

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