The joint commission, chaired by Iraq's defense minister and the American embassy's No. 2 diplomat, expressed "mutual commitment of the Iraqi government and the U.S. government to work together to evaluate issues of safety and security related to personal security detail operations in Iraq," the brief embassy statement said.
The commission is expected to issue recommendations to both Baghdad and Washington on improving Iraqi and U.S. security procedures, with the "goal of ensuring that personal security detail operations do not endanger public safety" and prevent similar incidents in the future.
It is one of at least three investigations into the Sept. 16 shooting in which Blackwater guards are accused of opening fire on Iraqi civilians in a main square in Baghdad. The Moyock, N.C.-based security company contends its employees came under fire first, but the Iraqi government and witnesses dispute that.
On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times published an Op-Ed by a former U.S. official in Iraq who witnessed Blackwater operatives' brazen disregard for the safety of civilians, even children and the elderly. Janessa Gans, who was in Iraq from 2003, to 2005, wrote of her Blackwater driver careening through the streets and intentionally smashing a slower car driven by an older Iraqi man with a woman and three children off the road and into a barrier.
When she complained, her driver remarked that he has been trained to view anyone as a potential threat: "Terrorists could be disguised as anyone."
"Well, if they weren't terrorists before, they certainly are now," she replied.
A former Army captain hired by Blackwater to serve as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. State Department in Iraq will take a break from his position to seek the Republican nomination for Congress in Indiana's 2nd District (a seat now held by Democrat Joe Donnelly).
Thirty-nine-year-old Chris Minor of Kokomo said he can't discuss Blackwater or the general use of contractors in Iraq; the terms of his contract with the company prevent him from speaking publicly about it.
Bombings Claim Nine Lives
Sunday's attacks in Baghdad started with an early morning explosion near a minibus carrying workers into central Baghdad. Three people were killed and four wounded in roadside bombing, which apparently targeted a police patrol, according to a police official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The inside of the mangled minibus was soaked in blood, the metal hulk was pummeled by shrapnel and the windows were shattered, according to AP Television News footage.
A half-hour later, in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, a second roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol missed its target, killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding three others, police said.
And in the downtown commercial area of Salihiyah, a bomb planted in the back of a car parked near the Iranian Embassy exploded about 8:30 a.m., killing three Iraqi passers-by and wounding five others, according to police.
In Other Developments: