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Iraqis detain 5 Americans in Baghdad

IRAQI authorities have detained five United States citizens in connection with the death of an American contractor in Baghdad, officials said yesterday, in what could be the first case of Americans facing local justice under a joint security pact that took effect this year.

The body of Jim Kitterman, who was reportedly bound, blindfolded and stabbed, was found in his car last month in the Green Zone where his construction company was based.

It was an unprecedented slaying in the protected district and occurred at a time when blast walls are coming down and Iraqi forces are assuming greater control of security.

US Embassy spokesman James Fennell said no formal charges have been filed. Embassy officials have visited the men to make sure they're being given their rights in accordance with Iraqi law, Fennell said, adding "the men appeared well."

He said FBI agents were present during a search of the men's quarters at the request of Iraqi authorities who are handling the investigation.

Major General Hussein Ali Kamal, a senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official, said the detained Americans were from the same company, but he declined to give more details.

Although Americans and others have been killed in rocket or mortar attacks in the Green Zone, Kitterman was believed to be the first American ever assassinated there since the protected area was established after the city fell to US forces in April 2003.

Iraq assumed control of the Green Zone on January 1 under a US-Iraqi security agreement, taking primary responsibility from the Americans.

The Iraqis have begun removing some of the protective blast falls around the Green Zone - part of a campaign to restore a sense of normalcy as violence in the city has waned.


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