BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's Interior Ministry has revoked the license of Blackwater USA, an American security firm whose contractors are blamed for a Sunday gunbattle in Baghdad that left eight civilians dead.
Sunday's firefight took place near Nusoor Square, an area that straddles the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Mansour and Yarmouk.
In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded, most of them civilians, the official said.
"We have revoked Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. As of now they are not allowed to operate anywhere in the Republic of Iraq," Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf said Monday. "The investigation is ongoing, and all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice."
Blackwater is one of many security firms contracted by the U.S. government during the Iraq war. An estimated 25,000-plus employees of private security firms are working in Iraq, guarding diplomats, reconstruction workers and government officials. As many as 200 are believed to have been killed on the job, according to U.S. congressional reports
Iraqi authorities have issued previous complaints about shootings by private military contractors, but Iraqi courts do not have the authority to bring contractors to trial, according to a July report from the Congressional Research Service.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee estimated in February that nearly $4 billion had been spent on security contracts amid the insurgency that followed the U.S. invasion in 2003 -- costs that have forced the delay, cancellation or scaling back of some reconstruction projects.
Note that the number given of 25,000 contractors are for those involved in security functions only. The rest of the 180,000 contractors in Iraq are the food service workers, the sanitation workers, the truck drivers and the like.
It will be interesting to follow this development. I somehow doubt that Blackwater will in the end actually leave Iraq. But I am a pessimist when it comes to Christian Fundamentalist whack-jobs, accountability and this administration. (Blackwater is owned by a fundie with 'loofah my back, please George' closeness to the president).
If they should leave, I would think that things would be better for our own troops and for the Iraqi people.