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Blackwater to cut back security role

July 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

MOYOCK, N.C. — Blackwater Worldwide said Monday that it planned to shift away from the security contracting business that earned it millions of dollars and made it a flash point in the debate over the use of private security companies in war zones.

"The experience we've had would certainly be a disincentive to any other companies that want to step in and put their entire business at risk," company founder and Chief Executive Erik Prince said.

Blackwater executives said the company would continue to guard U.S. officials in Iraq but its future would be focused on training, aviation and logistics.

"Security was not part of the master plan, ever," company President Gary Jackson said.

The company has made hundreds of millions defending U.S. diplomats in Iraq and more than $1 billion from government contracts since 2001.

The company has been under intense scrutiny since September when some of its personnel opened fire in a crowded Baghdad intersection. Seventeen Iraqis were killed, prompting congressional hearings and an FBI investigation.

The security business is about 30% of Blackwater revenue now, and Jackson said it would go much lower.

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