US Denies Americans Detained in Shooting
Monday, November 19, 2007; 11:11 PM
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi troops detained 43 people, most Sri Lankans and other foreigners, in a convoy run by a U.S.-contracted firm after an Iraqi woman was wounded in a Baghdad shooting involving their vehicles, the U.S. military said. It denied reports that two Americans were also arrested.
The incident follows a series of recent shootings in which foreign security guards have allegedly killed Iraqis. Last month, the Iraqi Cabinet sent parliament a bill to lift immunity for foreign private security companies that has been in effect since the U.S. occupation began in 2003.
The convoy belonged to Almco Group, an Iraqi-run company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which has contracts with U.S.-led forces to provide food, water and other life support functions to military transition teams, as well as the construction of a justice compound, Maj. Brad Leighton said.
But the military spokesman said it was not yet known if those detained were working on those contracts or under the auspices of a contract with another agency in Iraq.
"At this point we have not determined whether these individuals were acting on a U.S. contract at the time of this incident," Leighton said. "They may have been working for another contract at the time that they were detained."
Almco officials did not immediately respond to phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.
Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the chief Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad, said the convoy was driving on the wrong side of the road in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah when the woman was wounded in a shooting that took place about midday.
He said earlier those arrested included two American guards, along with 21 people from Sri Lanka, nine from Nepal and 10 Iraqis.
But Leighton denied any Americans were involved, saying the confusion may have stemmed from two Fijians who held identification cards issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Besides the Fijians, he said 21 Sri Lankans, nine Nepalese, one Indian and 10 Iraqis were being held at an Iraqi army headquarters and coalition forces were dispatched to stay with them to ensure they receive proper treatment.
Leighton confirmed a woman was wounded in a shooting involving the convoy, but he declined to give more details, saying the circumstances were still under investigation.
The role of private security guards has become particularly controversial following a Sept. 16 shooting in which Blackwater Worldwide guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Baghdad's Nisoor Square.