Strange Coincidence - former Xe guards asked to leave Iraq

Less than a week after the discovery of online video footage of an American Iraqi hostage, Issa Salomi, 250 former Blackwater security guards have been formally asked to leave Iraq (Iraq orders former Blackwater security guards out Washington Post, By Qassim Abdul-Zahra, February 11, 2010). One of the kidnappers' demands, as presented by Salomi in the online video, was "the expulsion of former Blackwater security guards."

That's an uncomfortably strange coincidence.

Iraq expels 250 ex-Blackwater staff

Al Jazeera, February 12, 2010

Making the announcement on Thursday, Jawad Bolani, the interior minister, said: "We have sent an order to 250 former Blackwater employees, who today are working with other security companies in Iraq, to leave the country in seven days and we have confiscated their residence permits.

"All of those concerned were notified four days ago and so they have three days to leave. This decision was made in connection with the crime that took place at Nisur Square."

Bolani was referring to an incident at the busy Baghdad square in September 2007, when five guards employed by Blackwater were accused of killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in a gun and grenade attack, and wounding 18 others.

The same group believed to be behind the kidnapping of Salomi, The League of the Righteous, recently released another hostage from the UK, Peter Moore. Moore's release came just after that of a jailed political leader ffilliated with the League of the Righteous.

Iraq hostage Peter Moore arrives back in UK

BBC, January 1, 2010

The release was thought to be connected Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib al-Haq, or the League of Righteousness, was transferred from US to Iraqi custody shortly before the release of Mr Moore.

Additional Reading:

Kidnapping of American in Iraq sparked by faltering reconciliation talks

By Jane Arraf, Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 2010

Issa Salomi, a linguist working on an Army project to map tribal structures, was seized on January 23 while visiting relatives in the Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad, according to the US military. A Shiite extremist group, The League of the Righteous, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, (AAH) last week released a video of Mr. Salomi dressed in a US Army uniform and calling for the release of insurgents who fought American forces - and the expulsion of former Blackwater security guards.

If it brings Salomi home safely, that's great news for he and his family. However, the precendent sets up a political dynamic that could quickly spiral out of hand.

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Can anyone blame Iraq?

The strange part in this story is no one - at least in the MSM - seems to be acknowledging that there might be a connection between the kidnapping demands and the expulsion of the former Blackwater employees. That's just weird.