'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Not Just Blackwater 

Why is it that private security contractors seem to be drawn to killing women and children?

A company statement said the shooting occurred after a car failed to heed warnings to stop while approaching a Unity convoy.

"The first information that we have is that our security team was approached at speed by a vehicle which failed to stop despite an escalation of warnings which included hand signals and a signal flare. Finally, shots were fired at the vehicle and it stopped," the company said in a statement.

Unity Resources, which is run by former Australian army personnel, was investigated last year in connection with the shooting of a 72-year-old agriculture professor at the University of Baghdad, according to Australian media. The Australian Foreign Ministry at the time said the professor, Kays Juma, was shot because his vehicle failed to stop at a checkpoint in the capital.

Some witnesses confirmed that a flare was fired, but at least two said guards fired into the vehicle after it had been partially disabled by warning shots. One witness said the vehicle, which carried at least three women and one child, had rolled to a halt when the women inside were shot.

. . Tuesday's incident was seen by residents as another case of Iraqis paying the price for the foreign presence in their country.

"I saw two foreigners step out of their SUVs just 10 meters away from the victims' vehicle after it had come to a stop, and then they opened fire," said the owner of a plumbing supply store near the scene. He asked that his name not be used for security reasons.

He and others interviewed about two hours after the 1:40 p.m. shooting described a chaotic chain of events that began when a convoy of four SUVs came down a street at high speed, zigzagging among cars.

The convoy overtook a white 1990 Oldsmobile driven by a woman. Witnesses said a younger woman sat in the passenger seat. Another woman and a child were in the back.

A 27-year-old laborer who would not give his name said one guard fired at the Oldsmobile's radiator in an apparent attempt to force it to stop after it had come within a few yards of the convoy. The car continued moving, dragging the radiator along the ground, he said.

"Then, two guys came out, approached the vehicle and shot for almost 10 seconds before returning to their SUVs and fleeing," he said. "The woman in the back started screaming. She had two kids with her, I think."

The plumbing shop owner estimated the car was about 30 feet from the SUVs when the guards fired the fatal shots.

Witnesses said the driver was shot in the face and head and that she and the front-seat passenger were killed.

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