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Anger as Blackwater set to stay

AN Iraqi wounded in the September 2007 shoot-out by guards of the former Backwater Worldwide security firm expressed anger and dismay yesterday after reports that the company was to continue to work in Iraq longer than previously thought.

Hussein Jabber, a Baghdad lawyer hit by gunfire in the deadly melee, says he was outraged at the Iraqi government not taking a harder stance against the company, now known as Xe.

"The Blackwater personnel are mercenaries. The Iraqi government knows that very well," said Jabber, who still has bullet fragments in his arm and side from the shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead and another 20 wounded in Baghdad's Nisoor Square.

The bloodshed strained ties between Iraq and the United States and brought questions about Washington's use of private security in Iraq and other conflict zones.

The State Department said this month that Xe guards would stop protecting US diplomats in Baghdad on May 7, when the company's contract for that specific job expires.

But the company is to remain in some areas of southern Iraq into the summer and its aviation service will provide security for US diplomatic convoys into September.


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