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US Military Charges Civilian Contractor in Iraq


BAGHDAD - The United States military announced on Saturday it had charged a civilian contractor in Iraq under U.S. military law for the first time.0405 02 1 2

Alaa Mohammad Ali is accused of stabbing another contractor, the military said in a statement. It did not specify his nationality.

The statement said he was the first contractor charged under an amendment passed by Congress in 2006, which governs military trials for contractors accompanying U.S. troops.

Ali has been held by U.S. military authorities since February and will face his first pre-trial hearing on April 10. He will be given the same rights as a U.S. service member facing military court, the statement said.

The legal status of contractors in Iraq has been the subject of substantial controversy, especially since last September when contractors from the U.S. firm Blackwater were accused of killing 17 people in a shooting incident in Baghdad.

The FBI is investigating whether Blackwater employees broke any laws in that incident, which angered the Iraqi government.

The Blackwater staff were employed by the State Department to guard embassy officials and it is not clear if they could be prosecuted under laws covering contractors accompanying the military, or other U.S. laws.

The State Department announced on Friday it was extending Blackwater's contract for another year.

(Reporting by Peter Graff; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)

© Reuters 2008

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