British contractor arrested in two killings in Baghdad

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 9, 2009 

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities arrested a British security contractor early Sunday on suspicion that he shot two colleagues to death after an argument in Baghdad's International Zone.

All three contractors worked for ArmorGroup, a British security firm.

Iraqi police Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf said the contractors were drinking alcohol with an Iraqi colleague when an argument broke out. The shooter allegedly killed two fellow contractors and wounded the Iraqi, whom Khalaf said was part of the group. He tried to flee the scene, but Iraqis arrested him before he could leave the International Zone, Khalaf said.

An ArmorGroup spokesman identified the victims as Paul McGuigan, a British national, and Darren Hoare, and Australian.

"Their next of kin have been informed, and we are supporting them as much as we can in these tragic circumstances," ArmorGroup spokesman Patrick Toyne-Sewell said in an e-mail.

The shooter is being held in an Iraqi detention facility in the International Zone, said Khalaf, who said that the suspect, whom Iraqi officials identified as Danny Fitzsimmons, wouldn't be released to Western embassies.

He could face execution if he's convicted under rules governing the activities of Western contractors in Iraq that took effect Jan. 1, said Khalaf.

The ArmorGroup employee appears to be the first Western security contractor who could be tried and punished under the security agreement. The pact gave to Iraq full control of the four-square-mile International Zone, the site of the huge new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the hub of American activities in Baghdad since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.

American forces are aware of the incident but weren't involved in it, said a spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq.

Before Jan. 1, when the new U.S.-Iraq security agreement took effect, Iraqi officials had little authority to detain Western contractors. Iraqi negotiators insisted that contractors obey local laws because of outrage over a 2007 incident in Baghdad's Nissour Square in which employees of North Carolina-based Blackwater, which since has renamed itself Xe Services, shot and killed 17 Iraqis.

Khalaf said the British Embassy is working with Iraqis on the case. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office isn't commenting on the incident beyond acknowledging that a shooting involving British nationals took place.

Ashton reports for The Modesto Bee; Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent.

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