Published January 13, 2015
A joint U.S.-Iraqi commission reviewing American security operations after a deadly shooting of Iraqi civilians allegedly at the hands of Blackwater USA guards met for the first time on Sunday, the U.S. embassy said.
Across the Iraqi capital, bombings killed at least nine Iraqis in three separate attacks, including one near Iran's embassy, police said, while the U.S. military reported the capture of three suspected Shiite militia fighters believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of five British security contractors.
The joint commission, chaired by Iraq's defense minister and the American embassy's No. 2 diplomat, expressed "mutual commitment of the Iraqi government and the U.S. government to work together to evaluate issues of safety and security related to personal security detail operations in Iraq," the brief embassy statement said.
The commission is expected to issue recommendations to both Baghdad and Washington on improving Iraqi and U.S. security procedures, with the "goal of ensuring that personal security detail operations do not endanger public safety" and prevent similar incidents in the future.
It is one of at least three investigations into the Sept. 16 shooting in which Blackwater guards are accused of opening fire on Iraqi civilians in a main square in Baghdad. The Moyock, N.C.-based security company contends its employees came under fire first, but the Iraqi government and witnesses dispute that.
Sunday's attacks in Baghdad started with an early morning explosion near a minibus carrying workers into central Baghdad. Three people were killed in the roadside bombing, which apparently targeted a police patrol, according to a police official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The inside of the mangled minibus was soaked in blood, the metal hulk was pummeled by shrapnel and the windows were shattered, according to AP Television News footage.
A half-hour later, in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, a second roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol missed its target, killing three Iraqi civilians, police said.
And in the downtown commercial area of Salihiyah, a bomb planted in the back of a car parked near the Iranian Embassy exploded about 8:30 a.m., killing three Iraqi passers-by, according to police.
Separately, the U.S. military said a pre-dawn raid Saturday in Baghdad's Sadr City netted three men believed responsible for the May 29 abduction of the four British security guards and a computer expert. In the kidnapping, some 40 armed men in police uniforms swept into the Iraqi Finance Ministry and took the Britons toward Sadr City.
As recently as last month, the U.S. military has said it believes the Britons are still alive.
Also Sunday, five crossing points in Kurdish-run northern Iraq — closed last month by Iran to protest the U.S. detention of an Iranian — were expected to reopen.
The U.S. military said the Iranian taken into custody Sept. 20 was a member of the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards alleged to smuggle weapons to Shiite extremists. The Iraqi government has asked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to release the man.
By midday Sunday, at least one border point, about 80 miles from the northern city of Sulaimaniya, remained closed. About 300 Iraqi freight trucks were parked and hundreds more waited on the Iranian side.
Also Sunday, the leader of the self-governing Kurdish region spoke out in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal about new oil agreements with several international companies. The central government in Baghdad is upset about the deals, saying the Kurds should wait until the passage of a national oil law before signing any new contracts.
But Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said the deals were "not an attempt to usurp the nation's oil resources" but rather to make "these valuable resources work for the people of Iraq."
He said the Kurdish regional government has signed eight production-sharing contracts with international oil and gas companies since enacting its own law governing foreign oil investments in August and expected to sign two more "in the near future."