Blackwater aids military with armed support
MOYOCK, North Carolina (AP) -- The four civilians who were killed and dragged through the streets of an Iraqi town Wednesday worked for a North Carolina subcontractor that is providing security in a hostile area of Iraq.
Blackwater Security Consulting provides security training and guard services to customers around the world. It is one of five subsidiaries of Blackwater USA, based in northeastern North Carolina about a half-hour's drive from the world's largest naval base in Norfolk, Virginia.
The company referred calls to a spokesman in suburban Washington who declined comment beyond a prepared statement that said Blackwater was a government subcontractor providing security for the delivery of food in the Fallujah area.
The United States has denounced the slayings as "horrific." Jubilant Iraqi residents dragged two of the charred corpses through the streets and hanged them from a bridge.
The names of the victims were not immediately released because family members had yet to be notified.
Privately owned Blackwater USA's range of services include providing firearms and small-groups training for Navy SEALs, police department SWAT teams and former special operations personnel.
Blackwater President Gary Jackson and two other company leaders are former Navy SEAL commandos.
"We're very proud of the work that we do. We feel that we support a just cause," assistant training director Chris Epperson said during a visit last month.
On a typical day, a Navy SEALs team practiced shooting in odd positions through doors and windows and cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy learned how to storm through doorways during a room-by-room search. Plainclothes operatives practiced how to escape from a disabled sport-utility vehicle while under fire from attackers.
The company's security-consulting business connects former special forces troops with jobs that may involve protecting people or places, or training foreign militaries.
Epperson said the company's contractors provide protection to Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq.
Other Blackwater USA subsidiaries train dogs and handlers for security work, and train pilots to land airplanes and helicopters on dirt landing strips.
Faye and Howard Forbes of Moyock said the deaths brought the war home to the community best known for being on the route to North Carolina's Outer Banks beaches.
"With what's been going on in Iraq I'm not surprised at anything," 72-year-old Howard Forbes said while eating at a diner in Moyock. "But I was surprised at what they did to the bodies."
Five soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, were killed Wednesday in a separate attack. The soldiers, whose names were not immediately released, died when a bomb exploded under their M-113 armored personnel carrier in Malahma.
"It's an incredible tragedy when life is lost and we in Kansas take it even more personally when we're talking about soldiers based in Kansas," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said.