Iraq has ordered hundreds of private security guards linked to Blackwater Worldwide to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest on visa violations, the interior minister said Wednesday.
The order comes in the wake of a US judge's dismissal of criminal charges against five Blackwater guards who were accused in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad.
It applies to about 250 security contractors who worked for Blackwater in Iraq at the time of the incident, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told The Associated Press.
Some of the guards now work for other security firms in Iraq, while others work for a Blackwater subsidiary, al-Bolani said. He said all "concerned parties" were notified of the order three days ago and now have four days left before they must leave. He did not name the companies.
Blackwater security contractors were protecting US diplomats when the guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, a busy Baghdad intersection, on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.