Iraqi troops detained 43 people, most Sri Lankans and other foreigners, traveling in a convoy run by a U.S.-contracted firm after an Iraqi woman was wounded in a shooting involving their vehicles in Baghdad, the military said. It denied earlier reports that two Americans were among those arrested.
The incident follows a series of recent shootings in which foreign security guards have allegedly killed Iraqis. Last month, the Iraqi Cabinet sent parliament a bill to lift immunity for foreign private security companies that has been in effect since the U.S. occupation began in 2003.
The convoy belonged to Almco, an international company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which has contracts with U.S.-led forces to provide food, water and other life support functions to military transition teams, as well as the construction of a justice compound, Maj. Brad Leighton said.
But the military spokesman said it was not yet determined whether those detained were working on those contracts at the time of the incident or under the auspices of a contract with another agency in Iraq.
"At this point we have not determined whether these individuals were acting on a U.S. contract at the time of this incident," Leighton said. "They may have been working for another contract at the time that they were detained."
Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the chief Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad, said the convoy was driving on the wrong side of the road in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah when the woman was wounded in a shooting that took place about midday.
He said those arrested included two American guards, along with 21 people from Sri Lanka, nine from Nepal and 10 Iraqis.
But Leighton denied any Americans were involved, saying the confusion may have stemmed from two Fijians who held identification cards issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Besides the Fijians, he said 21 Sri Lankans, nine Nepalese, one Indian and 10 Iraqis were being held at an Iraqi army headquarters and coalition forces were dispatched to stay with them to ensure they receive proper treatment.
Leighton confirmed a woman was wounded in a shooting involving the convoy, but he declined to give more details, saying the circumstances were still under investigation.
In Other Developments:The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented. An AP attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months. A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006. Five Western security contractors kidnapped a year ago in Iraq are still alive, their employer said Monday, stressing that authorities are exerting all efforts to secure their release. The four Americans and one Austrian colleague employed by the Kuwait-based Crescent Security Group were among 14 people kidnapped Nov. 16, 2006, by men in Iraqi police uniforms who ambushed a convoy they were escorting near the southern Iraqi border city of Safwan. Crescent managing partner Franco Picco said "we do have an idea where they are." The families of some of the men have complained in the past that the U.S. government has keep them in the dark about efforts to free the men. A car bomb exploded in front of a police officer's house on the outskirts of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, on Monday. Ten people were wounded, police said. On Sunday in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives as American soldiers were handing out toys to children, killing at least three children and three of the troopers, U.S. and Iraqi authorities said. Despite a reported decline in violence in Iraq, Northern Iraq has become more violent than other regions as militants move there to avoid coalition operations elsewhere, the region's top U.S. commander said Monday. "What you're seeing is the enemy shifting," Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from outside Tikrit in northern Iraq. Fran Townsend, the leading White House-based terrorism adviser who gave public updates on the extent of the threat to U.S. security, is stepping down after 4½ years. Her departure continues an exodus of key Bush aides and confidants, with his two-term presidency in its final 15 months. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain will make his seventh trip to Iraq over the coming Thanksgiving holiday period, a campaign adviser said Monday. The senator will be part of a small congressional delegation making the trip. Three members of Iraq's Olympic soccer team and their assistant coach left the team during a trip to Australia and are seeking asylum in the country, Iraq's soccer federation said Monday.
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