Washington renewed Blackwater USA's multimillion-dollar contract for another year today pending two probes into the contractor's conduct in Iraq, the AP reports. The FBI is still investigating a Baghdad shooting last year in which Blackwater guards gunned down 17 civilians and sparked outrage among Iraqis; US lawmakers are also probing claims that Blackwater smuggled arms into the country. Blackwater has denied guilt in both cases.
"Essentially I think they do a very good job," a US official told Reuters. "The September 16th incident was a tragedy. It has to be investigated carefully." Blackwater says its guards were returning fire to protect diplomats, but Iraqi investigators have called the killings unprovoked. Blackwater has banked nearly $1.25 billion from protecting US diplomats in Iraq over the past 8 years.