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US Embassy Resumes Some Travel With Help of Blackwater Security Firm


The U.S. Embassy resumed limited travel by road with Blackwater USA protection in Baghdad on Friday. As VOA's Jim Randle reports, the move came just days after all travel by land by U.S. officials was suspended amid public outrage over the killing of civilians by private guards from the American company.

An Embassy spokeswoman says U.S. officials consulted Iraq's government before resuming limited ground travel with security guards from Blackwater USA. The security firm provides protection for U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

Iraqi authorities had suspended Blackwater's license after a shooting incident Sunday that left 11 Iraqi civilians dead. The ban, announced Tuesday, had confined most American officials to the Green Zone, a 9-square-kilometer area in the center of the city that houses the American Embassy and thousands of U.S. soldiers and contractors.

Blackwater has said its employees acted "lawfully and appropriately" in response to an armed attack against a U.S. State Department convoy.

But Iraqi officials and witnesses have offered conflicting accounts.

At a news conference in Moscow Friday, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says the United States should replace Blackwater with another security firm.

Meantime, the U.S. military says coalition forces killed one terrorist Friday and detained eight suspects in operations in Baghdad, northern and central Iraq.

U.S. officials say one of the suspects arrested in a security sweep is an prominent member of al-Qaida-in-Iraq.

"The individual is believed to build bombs for the Baghdad car-bombing network and has oversight of their past and future attacks. This individual is also believed to facilitate the movement and training of foreign terrorists in the region, army specialist Megan Burmeister read the military statement to reporters.

Officials also announced the deaths of two American soldiers on Thursday. And, on Friday, a roadside bomb blast killed a Romanian soldier and wounded five others in southern Iraq.