500 Ugandan guards battle Iraqi protesters

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Aggrieved. Protesters smash the windows of the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday. PHOTO BY AFP 

By RISDEL KASASIRA

At least 500 Ugandan private security guards at the United States of America embassy in Baghdad were involved in the running battles with the Iraqi demonstrators who attacked the establishment on Tuesday.

A video posted on Twitter by Live Breaking News, a US news wire, shows Ugandan armed guards dressed in ballistic vests and helmets standing at the entrance of the embassy as demonstrators smash the outer wall.

In the video, they had been mistakenly identified as American marines but Mr Alex Plitsas, an American journalist and former soldier, who twice served in Iraq, said they were Ugandan guards.

“These are not US Marine Embassy Guards. These are armed security guards contracted by the State Department who have staffed the embassy for the last 10+ years. Most of them are Ugandan nationals,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

Mr Plitsas later told Daily Monitor on Wednesday that he had been to the American embassy in Iraq and could identify that they were Ugandan guards by their uniform.

The Ugandan guards are the first line of defence at the embassy because they man towers, entry points, check all the visitors and also guard an air strip inside the embassy premises.

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Former guards at the embassy, who did not want to be named, confirmed that the men in the video were Ugandans, who make 85 per cent of the guards at the embassy. Other guards are from Kenya, India and Peru.

The violent protests came after US airstrikes on Sunday killed 25 fighters under the Iranian-backed force, the Kataib Hezbollah militia, in western Iraq and eastern Syria.

The US said the bombings were a retaliation for the death of an American civilian worker killed during a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

Numbers
According to the sources, there are about 500 Ugandan guarding the embassy and other American diplomatic stations in Baghdad. The Ugandans, who are called Diplomatic Security Specialists, escort diplomats whenever they travel.

Documents seen by Daily Monitor indicate that the guards are recruited by Saracen Uganda Limited and handed over to Special Operations Centre [SOC], an American company contracted by the US State Department, to provide security services to US embassies in different countries.

There were reports that some could have been injured but the chief executive officer of Saracen Uganda Limited, Mr John Mugisha, said it was difficult for the demonstrators to get contact with the Ugandan guards because of many security rings. “I don’t think that could happen,” he said.

Asked about the kind of contract Saracen is running with SOC, he referred the matter to the company’s public relations officer whose phone was off.

Ms Carly Van Orman, the cultural affairs officer under the Public Affairs office at the US embassy in Kampala, said they were waiting for a response from Washington.

“I can make the inquiries and get information from main State Department. [But] because of time difference, we might not give a response until tomorrow,” she said.

During the attack, the US chinook heavy transport helicopters and UH-60 helicopters evacuated the embassy officials. After the attack, US President Donald Trump said Iran “will pay a very big price” for any damage or loss of life. “This is not a warning, it is a threat,” he said.

Mr Martin Wandera, the director of Labour in the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development under whose docket the recruitment of these guards falls, said they had not got any information about the guards being involved in the running battles with these demonstrators.

“I have heard about the attack on the embassy but we don’t have confirmation that Ugandans were involved,” he said.

rkasasira@ug.nationmedia.com

Source Daily Monitor.

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