by RAY FLEMING
THE U.S. troops may have left the streets of Iraq's main cities and elections may be due later this year, but the transformation of Iraq into a stable and reasonably democratic country will not be an easy process. Already fault lines are showing: there are signs of censorship of the media - in the interests of maintaining community calm, of course, but a worrying first step nonetheless; and the first of what may be a series of serious recriminations against the American occupation has already surfaced over the American firm Blackwater which provided extensive security services throughout the occupation. Although Blackwater's highly-trained mercenaries were civilians they were protected by US occupation rights. In 2007 17 Iraqis were killed by Blackwater personnel in Baghdad's Nisour Square - without any reason, according to many witnesses who have described what happened as random killings; many similar but smaller scale incidents were reported at the time.

Now lawyers representing 60 Iraqi civilians have lodged affidavits by two former Blackwater employees in an American court; these make charges against Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, alleging that he either murdered or had killed former employees who co-operated with federal investigators. Other allegations cover weapons smuggling and the deliberate slaughter of Iraqi civilians. Yet another accuses Mr Prince of recruiting and training men who “shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every opportunity to murder Iraqis.”

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