Iraq says Blackwater killed 17, shooting "deliberate"

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BAGHDAD, Oct 7 (Reuters) Iraq's government said today the death toll from last month's shooting involving Blackwater security guards stood at 17, six more than it had previously reported, and accused the guards of ''deliberate killing''.

Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement that an investigative committee set up by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had found no evidence that the private American security firm had come under fire during the incident.

He said Blackwater guards had ''violated rules governing the use of force'' in the September 16 incident when the firm was escorting a US convoy in Baghdad, and should be held accountable.

Iraq's cabinet would look at the recommendations presented by the committee and by a joint U.S.-Iraqi investigation and ''take the legal steps to hold the company to account'', Dabbagh said.

Blackwater is one of the biggest foreign security contractor companies in Iraq, which are seen by many Iraqis as unaccountable private armies. It has said its guards reacted lawfully to an attack on the convoy.

Maliki said after the incident he wanted a review of how security companies operate, saying he would not let Iraqis die ''in cold blood''.

REUTERS PDT VC2230

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