Wednesday, November 24, 2004

 

Mercenary contractors threaten safety and stability in Iraq

My Aunt Deb forwarded me a very interesting Knight-Ridder story about the security mishaps that have become standard fare in and about Baghdad as a result of the large numbers of foreign security contractors being hired because of the rampant insecurity. According to the article, there are about 20,000 of these contractors in Iraq and although they are supposed to obtain licenses and permits for their weapons with the Interior Ministry, not many of them do. The article cites several specific accounts of confrontations between US forces or Iraqi police and these foreign mercenaries.
Late Tuesday afternoon, soldiers in a U.S. Humvee spotted what they considered a suspicious car. They fired "six or seven rounds" at the tires, a security official said, providing information on condition of anonymity. There were no casualties.

The vehicle was carrying foreign security guards, whose identities and nationalities weren't released. The American troops quickly realized their mistake.

On Monday, it was a different story - and a lethal one -that illustrates the almost-electric tension on Baghdad's streets. When Iraqi police see unmarked cars with gun barrels poking out the windows, they understandably suspect that the cars may be carrying outlaws preparing to attack.

At about 10 a.m. local time, a police cruiser spotted a Korean-made white sedan near the Babylon Hotel in central Baghdad on a route often used by Interior Minister Falah Hassan al Naqib. The car reportedly had tinted windows and no license plate.

"The police started to shoot at the car," said Mohammed Khalif, a shopkeeper whose grocery is in front of the shootout site and is now marred by a shattered window.

Khalif said the white sedan carried three people. Coming under fire, one occupant broke a window, rolled out of the car and began firing back, Khalif said.

The foreigner killed one policeman and shot another in the left shoulder and abdomen, seriously wounding him, Khalif said; an Interior Ministry official confirmed his account. A passer-by also was wounded.

Another police cruiser arrived and took the foreigners into custody. They were released later that day.

Inside the car, police "found AK-47's and grenades," Khalif said. "All my neighbors and I saw their passports. They were foreigners."
Yep, a car full of foreigners with AK-47's and grenades kills one policeman and wounds a policeman and a passer-by and the men are released the next day? Oh wait, they had British passports, not Jordanian ones (or Egyptian ones, or Saudi ones, etc etc). It seems unacceptable to me that there would be any foreign fighters allowed to operate with relative impunity in another nation. Unfortunately, because the US completely dropped the ball in terms of securing Iraq after the invasion, this is what you have: a real recipe for disaster.

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