IRAQ: Pentagon Claims Contractors Not Targeted 'Systematically'

U.S. contractors hit by improvised explosive devices and small arms fire in Iraq are victims of circumstance, and there is little evidence that attacks on U.S. contractors are 'systematic,' says a Pentagon report to Congress.

There is little evidence that attacks on U.S. contractors by insurgents in Iraq are ``systematic,'' even as the toll of their deaths and injuries increases, according to a Pentagon report to Congress.

U.S. contractors are victims of circumstance -- hit by improvised explosive devices and small arms fire as they move throughout Iraq with U.S. troops or work with them at bases, according to the report by the Army's contracting office.

This report and one Sunday by the special inspector general for Iraq's reconstruction give the fullest analysis to date of the deaths and injuries suffered by U.S. and foreign contractors working in Iraq with the U.S. military or private companies.

``While some attacks are intended to kill or capture contractors specifically in an effort to weaken U.S. resolve and boost insurgent campaigns, there is little evidence to support a systematic plan to attack U.S. contractors,'' said the 25-page report compiled by the U.S. Army's Project and Contracting Office, a copy of which was obtained before its release.

The report lists nine high-profile attacks by insurgents in which U.S. contractors were killed or wounded. Among the most grisly were the murder and dismembering of four employees of Blackwater Security Consulting in Fallujah on March 31, 2004, and the kidnapping and beheading on Sept. 22, 2004, of two U.S. contractors working for Gulf Supplies and Commercial Services Co. of the United Arab Emirates.

``Hostile incidents involving U.S. contractors have occurred throughout Iraq,'' the report said. ``In most cases, contractors are not the intended targets but fall victim to violence directed at the coalition.''

There's no reliable, current data on the number of U.S. contract workers killed. State Department figures cited in the inspector general's report put the number at 95 between April 4, 2003, and March 31, 2005.

The number of U.S. and foreign civilians working on U.S. contracts since the war began March 19, 2003, was 303 as of today, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Death and injury claims together total 2,919, the department said.

Halliburton Co. filed the largest number of claims --1,505 - - followed by Titan Corp.'s 351, Veritas Capital's Dyncorp International unit with 116, and L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc. with 109.

Titan had the greatest number of death claims, with 126. Halliburton and its subcontractors have recorded 65 deaths to date, the second largest number.

Between the start of the war and Dec. 31, 2004, the department recorded 232 claims of worker deaths, about 11 per month; there have been 71 more worker deaths this year, a rate of about 15 per month.

The U.S. military as of today has suffered 1607 deaths in Iraq since the invasion, according to the Pentagon.

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