WASHINGTON: The crown prince of Abu Dhabi has hired the founder of private security firm Blackwater Worldwide to set up an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Blackwater, which once had lucrative contracts to protect US officials in Iraq, became notorious in the region in 2007 when its guards opened fire in Baghdad traffic, killing at least 14 people in what the Iraqi government called a massacre. One former Blackwater guard pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in those killings, and a U.S. court reinstated charges against five others last month. Prince has since sold the firm, which changed its name to Xe. The firm denies wrongdoing.
Force Hire No Muslims: According to former employees of the project and US officials cited by The Times, the troops were brought to a training camp in the UAE from Colombia, South Africa and other countries, starting in the summer of 2010. They were being trained by retired US military, and former members of German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion. Prince had insisted the force hire no Muslims, because they could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims, the paper said. Former employees also told the newspaper the Emirates hoped the force could be used to counter any threat from Iran, which the Arab states in the Gulf consider a foe. Although the documents it obtained did not mention Erik Prince, former employees had told the newspaper he had negotiated the contract with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Emiriati officials had proposed expanding the force to a brigade of several thousand if the first battalion was successful, the newspaper said.