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Railway workers in Paris shout during a demonstration to protest restructuring plans, job cuts and pay.
Railway workers in Paris shout during a demonstration to protest restructuring plans, job cuts and pay. (Christophe Ena/associated Press)

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

AFGHANISTAN

Controversial firm loses Kabul contract

The State Department will not renew the contract of the private security firm that guards the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to e-mails obtained by an independent watchdog group. The decision follows allegations of sexual misconduct by the company's guards and potential weapons shortages at the embassy.

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) said Tuesday that ArmorGroup North America's contract with the State Department will not be renewed for a fourth year when the agreement expires in June, but that the company will get a six-month extension until another contractor is selected.

A senior State Department official confirmed that the contract would not be renewed for an additional year and that it might be extended for a few months.

ArmorGroup earns $180 million annually to protect the roughly 1,000 Americans and Afghan nationals who work at the embassy. The State Department renewed the contract in July, only weeks after a Senate subcommittee on government contracting oversight raised concerns about the company's weapons shortages and the poor English-language skills of Nepalese Gurkhas employed by ArmorGroup.

POGO released a scathing report in September that found some employees had engaged in lewd behavior and hazed subordinates, posing a "significant threat" to embassy security.

-- Ed O'Keefe

NATO raid killed civilians, officials say

As a visit by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates got underway early Tuesday, Afghan officials in the eastern province of Laghman said that an overnight raid led by U.S. troops had killed seven to 12 civilians, an assertion NATO disputed. If true, the toll would be one of the highest for civilians in a NATO operation in recent months.

The provincial council chief, Gulzar Sangarwal, said that U.S. and Afghan army forces had mistakenly targeted a group of villagers on the edge of the province's main city, Mehtar Lam.

"All of the people killed, I can tell you they were innocent," Sangarwal said. He also said two people were killed when Afghan government forces opened fire on a crowd protesting the raid.


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