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he deaths sparked anger in Iraq and prompted officials there to order security firm Blackwater USA to halt operations in the country, though the U.S. State Department said the company remains active.
A State Department warden's message advises that the U.S. Embassy "has suspended official U.S. government civilian ground movements outside the International Zone" -- the formal name of the central Baghdad district that houses the embassy -- "and throughout Iraq."
The suspension is because of "a serious security incident involving a U.S. Embassy protective detail in the Mansour District of Baghdad," the statement said. It went on to say the suspension will allow assessment of security and of "a possible increased threat to personnel traveling with security details outside the International Zone."
Blackwater said its employees "acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack," when a State Department convoy came under attack, but many Iraqis, who have long viewed security contractors as mercenaries, dismissed this contention.
"We see the security firms ... doing whatever they want in the streets. They beat citizens and scorn them," one Baghdad resident, Halim Mashkoor, told AP Television News.
"If such a thing happened in America or Britain, would the American president or American citizens accept it?"