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Blackwater CEO insists employees never intentionally killed Iraqi civilians

[JURIST] Founder and chief executive of Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] Erik Prince testified in a hearing [recorded video] Tuesday before the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee [official website] that employees of his security firm have "distinguished records" and have never intentionally killed civilians. His testimony came one day after the FBI announced [JURIST report] that it would send a team of investigators to Iraq to study the circumstances surrounding a September shooting incident [JURIST report] involving Blackwater employees that left 11 Iraqi civilians dead. The pending investigation precluded discussions of the incident during Tuesday's hearing, but not those related to other allegations of misconduct by Blackwater and the overall performance of the firm in Iraq and Afghanistan, as outlined in a report [PDF text] released Monday by the committee. The report revealed Blackwater has been involved in an estimated 1.4 shootings a week in Iraq since 2005. Although private security firms are only authorized to use defensive force by the US State Department, Blackwater employees fired the first shots in more than 80 percent of the 195 incidents.

In response to domestic outrage over the Blackwater killings, the Iraqi Interior Ministry is proposing draft legislation to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament that places private security contractors under Iraqi legal jurisdiction. The Iraqi judiciary is also considering whether to proceed with a criminal prosecution [JURIST report]. CNN has more.

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