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Iraq not renewing Blackwater operating license

[JURIST] Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman major general Abdel Karim Khalaf said Thursday that the country would not renew a contract allowing Blackwater Worldwide [corporate website] private security forces to operate within the country. Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [CFR materials; McClatchy translation], which became effective this month and was signed [JURIST report] by the US and Iraq in December, the country has full autonomy to decide which private security forces may operate there. Khalaf said his government had made the decision because of the alleged killing [JURIST report] of 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater contractors in September 2007. A date for the company's guards to leave the country has not been set, but a spokesperson for the US Embassy to Iraq has said they have been aware of the decision [AP report], and are planning to arrange for alternative protection for US diplomats in Iraq.

Earlier this month, five Blackwater guards, indicted [text, PDF; JURIST report] in US federal court for the killings, pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to manslaughter and weapons charges. A sixth guard pleaded guilty [text, PDF] to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same incident. In November, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report]. In December, Bush administration officials announced that Iraq security contractors would be losing immunity [JURIST report] from Iraqi law under the SOFA with Iraq.

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