Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
The news this morning is that 43 foreign contractors have been detained in Baghdad in relation to yesterday's shooting of an 18-year old woman in the city's upscale Karrada neighborhood. The contractors were reportedly working in association with Almco, a Dubai-based firm that performs construction work for the U.S. military.
The Washington Post reports that four of the company's vehicles came under attack by an Iraqi mob as they passed through Karrada, apparently en route to Baghdad's airport, where the group of contractors—Sri Lankans, Indians, and Nepalese—were scheduled to depart Iraq. The convoy was protected by a security detail composed of 10 Iraqis and 2 Fijians, both carrying U.S. Department of Defense identity cards.
It was unclear from news reports if the security detail worked directly for Almco, or if it was comprised of subcontractors from a separate private security company. To find out, I spoke with Almco's Chairman and CEO Namir El Akabi. I reached him by phone earlier this morning in Baghdad. He assured me that Almco hires its own security contractors and declined further comment. I then reached his brother Surmid El Akabi in Almco's London office. Surmid said he was aware of "commotion about some kind of incident." Despite what his brother Namir may have said, he told me that Almco typically subcontracts an Iraqi company to provide security for its convoys. I emailed Namir to confirm this information. In response, he identified a local Iraqi firm—Al Iraq Al Moaser Security Company—as having provided security for yesterday's convoy to the airport.
If true, the incident would demonstrate that its not only Western private military firms that stand accused of unlawful use of force. Its unclear from press reports whether the shooting was done by Iraqi security contractors or by the two Fijians. If the former, would they be covered by the blanket immunity granted to other security contractors operating in Iraq? If the latter, will the Iraqi government pursue the Fijians as aggressively as they've gone after U.S. security contractors?
Almco plans to release an official statement tomorrow.