Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials have condemned the actions of security contractors who were guarding a State Department convoy that came under fire in downtown Baghdad on Sunday. The unnamed contractors are accused of firing indiscriminately and escalating the violence, which killed nine civilians. Update: The security firm in question was Blackwater USA.
A new independent report from a congressionally appointed panel of retired senior military officers criticizes Iraq’s “dysfunctional” Interior Ministry, noting rife sectarianism and corruption. The report also blames Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for problems with Iraq’s army, which it says will not be self-sufficient for at least two years.
Security contractor Blackwater USA was involved in two shootings in Baghdad last week. After firing on and killing an Iraqi driver, Blackwater guards found themselves in a standoff with heavily armed Iraqi Interior Ministry forces. A senior U.S. adviser said Iraq-American relations at the ministry have suffered greatly since the incident.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry says the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was killed in an internal fight among Sunni insurgents. However, the U.S. and at least one Iraqi official have expressed only cautious optimism, as a body has not yet been recovered. Update: al-Masri’s umbrella organization has denied reports of his death.
Earlier today some 80 armed gunmen dressed as interior ministry commandos stormed a research institute in Baghdad, kidnapping between 100 and 150 at least 50 people, some of whom were apparently released. The incident follows a series of attacks on academics and prompted Iraq’s higher education minister to close all universities until security is improved. (That order was later rescinded.)