Tue, Aug 11, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Iraqi authorities arrest Briton in contractor killings

AP , BAGHDAD

Iraqi authorities arrested a British contractor on Sunday over the shooting deaths of two coworkers in Baghdad’s protected Green Zone. The suspected gunman could be the first Westerner to face an Iraqi trial on murder charges since a security pact lifted the immunity that had been enjoyed by foreign contractors for most of the war.

The gunman shot his colleagues — one British and one Australian — during a quarrel, then he wounded an Iraqi while trying to flee their compound inside the vast area that is sealed off from the rest of the capital, Iraqi officials said.

“It started as a squabble,” Iraqi military spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi said. “The suspect is facing a premeditated murder charge. The matter is now in the hands of Iraqi justice.”

He said the suspect was being held at an Iraqi police station in the Green Zone.

The Green Zone houses the US and British embassies as well as the Iraqi government headquarters. The US military turned over security of the area to Iraqi forces when the security pact took effect on Jan. 1, but many foreign organizations maintain separate guarded compounds within the zone.

The UK embassy said two Britons were in Iraqi custody in connection with Sunday’s shooting.

But Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said that only one suspect was being held, identifying him as Daniel Fitzsimons.

An official familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Iraqis detained a second Briton for questioning but he had been released.

Fitzsimons was an experienced contractor who had worked for security firms in Iraq since 2004 and had only recently been rehired by ArmorGroup after a previous stint, the official said.

Patrick Toyne-Sewell, a spokesman for ArmorGroup Iraq, confirmed that two employees of the group identified as Paul McGuigan of Britain and Darren Hoare of Australia were killed early on Sunday in a firearms incident.

“We are working closely with the Iraqi authorities to investigate the circumstances of their deaths,” he said, adding that their relatives had been informed.

McGuigan, 37, was a former Royal Marine who had worked for the company in Iraq for six years, according to Toyne-Sewell, but more details were not immediately available about Hoare.

The US embassy referred questions to British, Australian and Iraqi officials.

The shooting occurred in the compound operated by Research Triangle Institute, the headquarters of two US-funded nonprofit groups — the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.

A US-Iraqi security pact, which took effect on Jan. 1 and replaced the UN mandate for foreign forces, lifted the immunity that had been enjoyed by foreign contractors in Iraq for much of the six-year war.

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