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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq to Review All Security Contractors

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi government said Tuesday that it would review the status of private security companies as anger over the alleged involvement of Blackwater USA in a fatal shooting threatened to spread to other firms providing protection for dignitaries and Westerners in Iraq.

Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for all contracts of foreign securities firms to be annulled and blamed the government for failing to protect Iraqis, saying the shootings occurred on a busy square filled with Iraqi troops.

"This aggression wouldn't have happened had it not been for the presence of the occupiers who brought these companies," Sadr's political committee said in a statement issued by his office in Najaf.

It also called for a speedy investigation, the referral of those involved to the Iraqi justice system and compensation for families of the victims.

A series of bombings, meanwhile, ripped through Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens, police said.

The developments came a day after the government announced that it was ordering Blackwater, a North Carolina-based security firm that protects U.S. diplomats, to leave the country after what it said was the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a U.S. State Department convoy.

Amid allegations that the foreign security contractors operate with impunity, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Cabinet held a meeting Tuesday and confirmed that "it is necessary to review the status of local and foreign private security companies working in Iraq according to what is suitable with Iraqi laws."

Dabbagh also said the Cabinet supported the Interior Ministry's decision to withdraw Blackwater's license, expedite an investigation and ensure that all those who attacked civilians were held accountable.

"The company should respect Iraqi laws and the dignity of the citizens," Dabbagh said in a statement released by his office.

Order No. 17, a law issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq before the Iraqis regained sovereignty in June 2004, gave the companies immunity from Iraqi prosecution.

Hassan al-Rubaie, a member of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, said an investigative committee had been formed and that members would consider abolishing the immunity law.

"There are reports that they were subjected to fire, but this does not give them the right to kill innocent civilians," he said.

Blackwater said the company had not been formally notified of any expulsion.

"Blackwater's independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack in Baghdad on Sunday," spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said in a statement Monday.

"Blackwater regrets any loss of life, but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life."

But Sunday's shooting has touched a nerve among Iraqis, already angered over the presence of so many visible, aggressive Western security contractors, whom many consider part of a mercenary force that runs roughshod over people in their own country.