Security firms involved in 200 shootings in Iraq

One fired at a car carrying an Iraqi judge because it was deemed to be driving fast

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The Independent Online

Thousands of field reports filed by private security contractors operating in Iraq have been made available to the public for the first time.

The documents reveal details of nearly 200 shootings by contractors working in the country for companies hired by the US government between 2005 and 2007.

Private security guards working in Iraq are required to file a report every time they discharge their weapon. These are sent to the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is responsible for overseeing the private security firms hired by the US.

More than 4,000 pages of these reports were published yesterday by US news website Gawker, which obtained the information legally through a freedom of information request it filed in 2007.

Contractors from Blackwater, one of the first private security firms to work in Iraq after the US-led takeover, feature heavily in the reports. The firm has faced heavy criticism for its role in a number of shootings, most notably the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians after Blackwater guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, while escorting an American diplomatic envoy.

The Iraqi government responded by banning Blackwater from the country in 2008. The company said its staff acted in self-defence.

A recurring theme of the reports is the use of weapons against vehicles which Blackwater staff had judged to be driving "aggressively".

On 19 February, 2007, a Blackwater motorcade carrying a dignitary to a local juvenile prison became suspicious of a car whose driver had a "device" in his hand.

A report on the incident reads: "Suspecting that the vehicle may be a Vehicle-Born Explosive Improvised Device, [redacted] fired one round from his rifle into the grill of the suspicious vehicle... The impact of the round caused the driver to bring the vehicle to an immediate stop. He raised his hands in the air revealing that he held a cell phone."

In another incident, in July, 2007, contractors working for a private security firm called DynCorp fired five shots at a car carrying an Iraqi judge after it was deemed to be driving "at a fast pace".

One report details the moment a Blackwater guard shot and killed a stray dog after it became "aggressive" and lunged at one of their own dogs.

Many of the incidents have already been reported, but not all the field reports have been made public until now. Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services in 2009 after a string of bad publicity. It renamed itself for the second time in two years on Monday, announcing that it would be known as Academi from now on.