The Iraqi government announced it was ordering Blackwater USA, the security firm that protects US diplomats, to leave the country after what it said was the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a State Department convoy.
The order Monday by the Interior Ministry, if carried out, would deal a severe blow to US government operations in Iraq by stripping diplomats, engineers, reconstruction officials and others of their security protection.
The presence of so many visible, aggressive Western security contractors has angered many Iraqis, who consider them a mercenary force that runs roughshod over people in their own country.
Sunday's shooting was the latest in a series of incidents in which Blackwater and other foreign contractors have been accused of shooting to death Iraqi citizens. None have faced charges or prosecution.