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May 29, 2007

Foreign Office To Hold Crisis Talks On Iraq Kidnapping Of 'Five' Britons - Attack Highlights Dangerous Duty Of Security In Iraq

The British Foreign Office is "urgently" looking into reports that four British security guards of the security firm and one British computer expert they were guarding, are among at least seven Westerners kidnapped from the Finance Ministry building in central Baghdad by gunmen dressed in Iraqi uniforms.

The Foreign Office was today "urgently" looking into reports that four British security guards and one further Briton are among at least seven Westerners kidnapped by gunmen in Iraq.

All seven, including three computer programmers, were reportedly taken from the Finance Ministry building in central Baghdad.

Details are sketchy on the nationality and exact number of those kidnapped, but if the reports that five Britons were among the hostages is true, it will be the largest group of British security guards taken in Iraq.

The BBC has reported that five Britons were among those kidnapped - four security guards and one computer expert they were guarding - but other reports did not mention the nationality of the guards.

[...] The BBC has also reported that a crisis team, including police hostage negotiators, members of the secret intelligence service, and regional experts, is being assembled to establish lines of communication with the kidnappers.

"Where we suspect British nationals have been abducted it would be normal to meet," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said, adding several government departments would be involved.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman could not confirm the reports but said: "We are urgently looking into reports that a group of Westerners has been kidnapped."

The building is outside the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone. The fact that the kidnappers were wearing police uniforms sparked rumours that "renegade" officers were involved.

Such groups have previously been involved in commercial kidnappings and have also been accused of sectarian murders in Baghdad, the BBC said.

[...] There are conflicting reports about how the abduction took place. Iraqi police have said that the hostages were seized from cars outside the building.

They said about 40 gunmen sealed off streets around the three-storey computer science building belonging to the ministry.

However a witness, who did not want to be identified, said the lecturers had been giving ministry personnel a lecture on electronic contracts. The lecture was taking place in the ministry building on Palestine Street.

The gunmen, led by a police major, had entered the conference room shouting "Where are the foreigners, where are the foreigners?" the witness said.

Today's report of British security operators and their charges being kidnapped highlights the highly dangerous and important missions conducted every day by security firms in Iraq, albeit much maligned by media such as the Washington Post. On Sunday the Washington Post had an article titled, "U.S. Security Contractors Open Fire in Baghdad" targeted Blackwater USA, a private security firm under contract to the State Department, saying that "Blackwater security personnel opened fire on the streets of Baghdad twice in two days last week," and "one of the incidents provoked a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi forces." The article was neither factually accurate nor fair in the context in which it presented the incidents.

As in the case of the kidnapped British security personnel, security operations are among the most dangerous missions undertaken in Iraq on a daily basis, and the slightest hesitation can result in capture or death of the security personnel and the people that they are charged with protecting.

Blackwater personnel operate under constant threat and under strict guidelines for using deadly force. In the case of the WaPo-report that a Blackwater guard shot and killed an Iraqi driver Thursday near the Interior Ministry, the victim purposefully drove too close to their convoy, which drew fire. Concerned about a possible car bomb or other threat, the guards tried to wave off the vehicle, shouted, fired a warning shot into the radiator, then shot into the windshield only when the driver failed to pull back. Had they not done so and the driver had been a suicide bomber, the Blackwater personnel and the persons they were charged with protecting could have been killed. The Blackwater personnel did their job, and they did it exactly as they were suppose to under the conditions in which they were presented; those conditions were not of their own choosing but that of the driver of the vehicle that constituted the threat to the convoy. It's standard procedure for using deadly force in Iraq.

In regard to the WaPo report that last Wednesday, a Blackwater-protected convoy was ambushed in downtown Baghdad, triggering a furious battle in which the security contractors, U.S. and Iraqi troops and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were firing in a congested area, the WaPo reporters simply have the facts wrong. From very trusted sources that were at the scene, we know that what actually happened was that the Blackwater convoy came upon an army unit already under attack, and it was the Blackwater personnel that responded to help the Army unit already under attack. Subsequently, the Blackwater personnel fought off the attackers until a larger Army unit and helicopter support arrived on scene. The Blackwater personnel used both grenades an machine gun fire to support the Army unit in the hour-long battle, with one Blackwater person having to use as many as 40 grenades to save the unit and fend off the attackers until help arrived.

Security operations continue to be extremely dangerous missions that are an important element of the coalition's mission in Iraq. For whatever reason, reporters such as the WaPo's Steve Fainaru and Saad al-Izzi continue to frame their bravery in as unfavorable light as possible, while it appears that they rush to report news in such a manner as to support a personal agenda than to get the facts straight.

Warriors for Hire - Blackwater USA and the rise of private military contractors. by Mark Hemingway.

Highly recommended Book: Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror by Robert Young Pelton.

Not recommended book, unless you just happen to like reading leftist anti-war dribble
by a shrill of the anti-war, peace at all costs Democracy Now (sort of a lesser funded MoveOn.org), named Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater - The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. By anti-Blackwater, anti-war, anti-American liberal author Jeremy Scahill.

Posted by Richard at May 29, 2007 11:32 AM

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