The deaths of at least 13 foreign security contractors in two days is the latest blow to Iraqs private security sector, which the interior ministry estimates employs 50,000 foreigners and Iraqis.
The killings brought new attention to Iraqs boom industry of well-paid private security consultants who have flooded the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein two years ago.
In the latest calamity to hit the industry, six US citizens, employed by the Blackwater Security Consulting firm, and two Filippino guards were among 11 killed when a Bulgarian commercial helicopter was shot down north of Baghdad.
Another American working for the same security firm was killed near Ramadi when a roadside bomb blew up near his vehicle.
In addition, yesterday, one employee from the British-based Aegis defence services company was killed and another wounded when a bomb exploded as their car headed from the capital towards the airport.
This followed another ambush along the same road yesterday when an American, an Australian and a Canadian, working for British-based Edinburgh Risk security firm, were killed when vehicles in their convoy came under small arms fire.
The deaths brought to 227 the number of foreign contractors who have died in Iraq, according to Coalition Casualties, an independent website tracking deaths in the war-torn country.
Blackwater was earlier hit in mid-March when two of its staff were killed in a roadside bombing on Baghdads perilous airport road, the site of frequent attacks on the ubiquitous convoys of sports utility vehicles carrying foreigners in and out of the city.
Blackwater, which provides protection for US officials in Iraq, lost four employees in Fallujah in March 2004 when a bomb exploded and two bodies were mutilated by an angry mob.
The slaughter sparked the first major US assault on Fallujah.
Most famously, the firm provided protection for former US pro-consul Paul Bremer during the 2003-2004 occupation of Iraq.
The foreign security contractor presence has been a bone of contention for Iraqi officials.
In one of the last decrees issued by Bremer in June 2004, he granted immunity from prosecution for private security contractors working with the Americans and US-backed Iraqi Government.
In January, a top interior ministry official Adnan Hadi al-Assadi, estimated there were 60 security firms operating in Iraq, estimating they employed 50,000 guards.
The figure he provided will make the private security sector five times larger than the size of the British military contingent, which is the second contributor to Multi-National Forces with around 9000 soldiers.
The British Daily Telegraph newspaper recently reported British military officials had written to the 300 Special Air Service (SAS) commandos serving in Iraq urging them to stay in the army rather than quit to take up more lucrative employment in the private security sector.
A former SAS, quoted by the British Guardian newspaper, said that by joining the private security industry he could earn $42,000 a month instead of his $6000 a month army pay proving people are willing to die for money.
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