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New York Times in Iraq: "Blackwater shot our dog"

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. embassy in Iraq is investigating another deadly shooting incident involving its Blackwater bodyguards -- this time of the New York Times’s dog.

Staff at the newspaper’s Baghdad bureau said Blackwater bodyguards shot Hentish dead last week before a visit by a U.S. diplomat to the Times compound.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said the dog had attacked one of Blackwater’s bomb-sniffer dogs while a security team was sweeping the compound for explosives.

“The K-9 handler made several unsuccessful attempts to get the dog to retreat, including placing himself between the dogs. When those efforts failed, the K-9 handler unfortunately was forced to use a pistol to protect the company’s K-9 and himself,” she said in an e-mail to Reuters.

The U.S. embassy employs about 1,000 armed Blackwater staff to protect American diplomats in Baghdad.

The firm’s role became a serious issue in Iraqi-U.S. relations when its guards opened fire on a Baghdad street in September, killing 17 people. Blackwater says its employees acted lawfully in that incident, which is under investigation.

State Department investigators have made two follow-up visits to the Times compound to investigate the shooting of Hentish, correspondent Alissa Rubin said.

“They were very solicitous and I thought took the incident very seriously,” Rubin said. “It’s not a dog that everyone’s close to in the compound.

“But it’s a dog that’s been around a long time. It lived its whole life there.”

Reporting by Peter Graff; editing by Robert Woodward

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