Three hurt as foreign guards fire on taxi in Iraq

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KIRKUK, Iraq, Oct 18 (Reuters) Foreign private security guards opened fire on a taxi near their convoy outside the Iraqi city of Kirkuk today, wounding three passengers, police said.

Police said it was not clear which company the guards worked for, but the incident in Qarah Anjir, 25 km east of Kirkuk, was under investigation.

There have been mounting calls for the Iraqi government to tighten controls on private security contractors following a September 16 incident in Baghdad involving the US firm Blackwater in which 17 people were killed.

The Iraqi authorities are also investigating another shooting earlier this month in which guards employed by an Australian security firm shot dead two women whose car ventured too close to their convoy.

The company said the car had failed to stop despite repeated warnings. In the Blackwater incident, the company, which is employed to protect US State Department personnel in Iraq, said its guards had acted lawfully against a threat to a convoy.

On a visit to Washington, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh repeated the government's desire for Blackwater to leave the country and said all security companies should be held accountable for their actions in Iraq.

At present foreign security guards are immune from prosecution in Iraq under a controversial order issued by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004.

''We do need all the security companies to be liable and ...

subject to accountability,'' Dabbagh said. ''No country in the world allows security companies to work in the way they are working in Iraq.

''We do understand that they do a good job of protecting diplomats and the contractors.'' REUTERS RSA RAI2159

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