Baghdad to investigate role of Blackwater in deaths

The Iraqi government says that it will investigate whether employees of the Blackwater security company were involved in hitherto undisclosed killings that emerged from the Wikileaks documents.

In addition to a notorious case in Baghdad in 2007, when Blackwater guards killed 17 and wounded 18 civilians, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that it has discovered a further 14 cases when Blackwater personnel allegedly opened fire on civilians. The information comes from the war logs made public by Wikileaks and allegedly shows that a further 10 civilians were killed and seven wounded by Blackwater, a US-based private security company now known as Xe. In one third of cases, the Blackwater guards were protecting US diplomats under a $465m (£300m) contract when they opened fire.

The war logs reveal repeated cases when they shot at civilian vehicles that came close to their convoys, on one occasion even shooting dead the driver of an ambulance who had attended the scene of a bomb attack.

Sunni politicians in Baghdad say that the US military reports confirm and give credibility to their claims over the years that members of their community were being tortured by Shia-dominated security forces.

Iraq Body Count says that the 400,000 Wikileak war logs show that an additional 15,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed in addition to the 107,000 in the group's database, which was built up from published sources. From the start of the war in 2003, the US military claimed that it did not have statistics on how many Iraqi civilians were being killed or injured. The aim of this was apparently to try to undermine protests against civilian loss of life as had happened in Vietnam.

The American and British governments both sought to play down civilian casualties in Iraq, claiming that only four out of 18 Iraqi provinces had a high level of violence. The Pentagon did ultimately admit that civilian deaths peaked at between 3,500 and 4,000 in a single month in December 2006.

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