Updated at 7:00 p.m. EST, Dec. 8, 2008
Iraqis began Eid al-Adha observances at dawn, so there will be little news out of the country today. Instead, the focus is on Utah, where five Blackwater Worldwide guards handed themselves over to U.S. authorities. No Coalition deaths were reported. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps commandant, believes that a large contingent of Marines deployed in Anbar province will transfer to Afghanistan starting in the spring. The only report of Iraqi deaths came from Anbar province where a mass grave was discovered.
Five Blackwater Worldwide guards surrendered to U.S. authorities today as part of an investigation into the shooting deaths of 17 civilians in Iraq last year. The guards claim they were responding to an attack, while witnesses say that the group was unprovoked. A sixth guard struck a plea deal. Many Iraqis have grown to despise foreign security contractors as they feel that the guards have no regard for Iraqi lives. The U.S.-Iraqi security pact, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, ends any legal immunity these guards currently have. That would mean that incidents such as the Blackwater one would be tried in Iraqi not U.S. courts. Formal charges included 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. Also, a little used law leftover from the 1980s drug war in the U.S., using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, will also be used against the men. That law alone carries a 30-year minimum sentence.
Marines stationed in Anbar province are expected to transfer to Afghanistan starting in the spring, said Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant. They are already undergoing training for the move. Officials believe they will better serve the country by moving from a peace-keeping mission in Iraq to an actual combat mission in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a nine-month-long inquiry determined that the Marine Corps failed to answer a request for vehicles better able to protect troops from roadside bombs.
An ambitious Pentagon plan to jumpstart Iraqi industries has failed due to lack of interest from American retailers.
Iraqi and U.S. forces uncovered a mass grave containing 20 bodies near Ramadi in Albyar.
MNF forces are in the process of setting up a joint security center in western Basra province. British forces are stationed at the international airport in Basra.
Reports of booby-trapped cars forced officials in Tal Afar to impose a curfew.
Ukrainian troops were expected to leave Iraq today, just two days after Japanese troops officially went home.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis