U.S.-Iraq Group Meets on Blackwater
(Time) - A joint U.S.-Iraqi commission reviewing American security operations after a deadly shooting of Iraqi civilians allegedly at the hands of Blackwater USA guards met for the first time on Sunday, the U.S. embassy said.
The joint commission, chaired by Iraq's defense minister and the American embassy's No. 2 diplomat, expressed "mutual commitment of the Iraqi government and the U.S. government to work together to evaluate issues of safety and security related to personal security detail operations in Iraq," the brief embassy statement said.
The commission is expected to issue recommendations to both Baghdad and Washington on improving Iraqi and U.S. security procedures, with the "goal of ensuring that personal security detail operations do not endanger public safety" and prevent similar incidents in the future.
It is one of at least three investigations into the Sept. 16 shooting in which Blackwater guards are accused of opening fire on Iraqi civilians in a main square in Baghdad. The Moyock, N.C.-based security company contends its employees came under fire first, but the Iraqi government and witnesses dispute that.
Separately, the U.S. military said a pre-dawn raid Saturday in Baghdad's Sadr City netted three men believed responsible for the May 29 abduction of the four British security guards and a computer expert. In the kidnapping, some 40 armed men in police uniforms swept into the Iraqi Finance Ministry and took the Britons toward Sadr City.
As recently as last month, the U.S. military has said it believes the Britons are still alive.