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