U.S.-Iraqi commission meets

BAGHDAD – A joint U.S.-Iraqi commission reviewing American security operations after a deadly shooting of Iraqi civilians allegedly at the hands of Blackwater USA guards met for the first time on Sunday, the U.S. embassy said. Across the Iraqi capital, bombings killed at least nine Iraqis in three separate attacks, including one near Iran’s embassy, police said.

The joint commission, chaired by Iraq’s defense minister and the American embassy’s No. 2 diplomat, expressed “mutual commitment of the Iraqi government and the U.S. government to work together to evaluate issues of safety and security related to personal security detail operations in Iraq,” the brief embassy statement said.

The commission is expected to issue recommendations to both Baghdad and Washington on improving Iraqi and U.S. security procedures, with the “goal of ensuring that personal security detail operations do not endanger public safety” and prevent similar incidents in the future.

It is one of at least three investigations into the Sept. 16 shooting in which Blackwater guards are accused of opening fire on Iraqi civilians in a main square in Baghdad. The Moyock, N.C.-based security company contends its employees came under fire first, but the Iraqi government and witnesses dispute that.

Sunday’s attacks in Baghdad started with an early morning explosion near a minibus carrying workers into central Baghdad. Three people were killed and four wounded in roadside bombing, which apparently targeted a police patrol, according to a police official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The inside of the mangled minibus was soaked in blood, the metal hulk was pummeled by shrapnel and the windows were shattered, according to AP Television News footage.

A half-hour later, in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, a second roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol missed its target, killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding three others, police said.

And in the downtown commercial area of Salihiyah, a bomb planted in the back of a car parked near the Iranian Embassy exploded about 8:30 a.m., killing three Iraqi passers-by and wounding five others, according to police.

Iran crossing points expected to open
Also Sunday, five crossing points in Kurdish-run northern Iraq – closed last month by Iran to protest the U.S. detention of an Iranian – were expected to reopen.

The U.S. military said the Iranian taken into custody Sept. 20 was a member of the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards alleged to smuggle weapons to Shiite extremists. The Iraqi government has asked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to release the man.

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