International brief

Security firm ousted from Iraq

The Iraqi government expelled Blackwater USA, the security firm that protects U.S. diplomats, on Monday after Iraqi civilians were allegedly shot by Blackwater contractors in western Baghdad on Sunday, The Associated Press reported.

Blackwater USA said 11 Iraqis were dead, but the Iraqi Defense Minister disputed that number, saying at least 20 were killed, according to the AP. The Iraqis were killed when contractors, supposedly working for Blackwater, opened fire on civilians in the predominately Sunni Mansour neighborhood in western Baghdad.

U.S. officials told the AP the contractors began shooting after a car bomb exploded near their motorcade followed by small-arms fire attack. There were no U.S. casualties, the officials said.

The shooting follows a series of incidents in which foreign contractors have been accused of fatally shooting Iraqi civilians while eluding prosecution, the AP reported.

Yassin Majid, an adviser for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told the AP that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned al-Maliki Monday evening and both agreed to conduct a "fair and transparent investigation" and hold the perpetrators of Sunday's shootings responsible.

-PATRICIO CHILE

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