From the Washington Post in the USA:
U.S. Security Contractors Open Fire in Baghdad
Blackwater Employees Were Involved in Two Shooting Incidents in Past Week
By Steve Fainaru and Saad al-Izzi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, May 27, 2007; Page A01
Employees of Blackwater USA, a private security firm under contract to the State Department, opened fire on the streets of Baghdad twice in two days last week, and one of the incidents provoked a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi forces, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
A Blackwater guard shot and killed an Iraqi driver Thursday near the Interior Ministry, according to three U.S. officials and one Iraqi official who were briefed on the incident but spoke on condition of anonymity because of a pending investigation.
On Wednesday, a Blackwater-protected convoy was ambushed in downtown Baghdad, triggering a furious battle in which the security contractors, U.S. and Iraqi troops and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were firing in a congested area.
Blackwater confirmed that its employees were involved in two shootings but could neither confirm nor deny that there had been any casualties, according to a company official who declined to be identified because of the firm’s policy of not addressing incidents publicly.
Blackwater’s security consulting division holds at least $109 million worth of State Department contracts in Iraq …
But last week’s incidents underscored how deeply these hired guns have been drawn into the war, their murky legal status and the grave consequences that can ensue when they take aggressive action.
Matthew Degn, a senior American civilian adviser to the Interior Ministry’s intelligence directorate, described the ministry as “a powder keg” after the Iraqi driver was shot Thursday, with anger at Blackwater spilling over to other Americans working in the building.
Degn said he was concerned the incident “could undermine a lot of the cordial relationships that have been built up over the past four years. There’s a lot of angry people up here right now.” …
The Iraqi official said the driver encountered the Blackwater convoy after leaving a gas station just outside the Interior Ministry.
Some witnesses said the shooting was unprovoked, the official said. He said the driver had wounds in his shoulder, chest and head.
The Blackwater employees refused to divulge their names or details of the incident to Iraqi authorities, according to two of the U.S. officials and the Iraqi official.
The officials described a tense standoff that ensued between the Blackwater guards and Interior Ministry forces — both sides armed with assault rifles — until a passing U.S. military convoy intervened.
Anne Tyrrell, a Blackwater spokeswoman, said the company did not discuss specific incidents. …
Blackwater is now the most prominent of dozens of security companies working in Iraq, with hundreds of guards and a fleet of armored vehicles and helicopters.
The Interior Ministry, which regulates security companies for the Iraqi government, has received four previous complaints of shooting incidents involving Blackwater in the past two years, according to Hussein Kamal, undersecretary for intelligence affairs.
But in an interview before last week’s shootings, Kamal said Iraqi authorities have been hampered by a Coalition Provisional Authority order granting contractors immunity from the Iraqi legal process.
Interior Ministry officials said Blackwater has not applied to operate as a private security company in Iraq.
Australian mercenaries: here.
Crescent Security Group mercenaries in Iraq: here.
US soldiers against Iraq war: here.