A British private security firm hired to protect the oil
installations of post-invasion Iraq is being sued for causing
death of an American soldier.
The case against the Erinys security firm, which reportedly has
ties to the former Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi, is believed to be
first brought against a private security contractor operating in
by a member of the US military.
It comes at a time of rising unease about the actions of
security firms in Iraq after 17 Iraqi civilians were shot dead
Baghdad by Blackwater guards travelling with a convoy of US
The suit against Erinys, filed last week in Houston, was brought
the father of Specialist Christopher Monroe, who was struck by
Erinys convoy on October 25 2005. He was on guard duty in
Iraq when he was struck and killed by a speeding Erinys vehicle,
"The family just didn't have the answers that they were
said Tobias Cole, a lawyer for the family. "For example, why
their son die on a non-combat mission? There was no reason to
extreme driving, no reason to drive without headlights, no reason
drive at speed through a parked convoy."
Monroe, 19, was the third generation of his family to serve in the
military and was an eager recruit. He enlisted before
secondary school at the age of 17. The lawsuit alleges the
vehicles in the Erinys convoy were driving at an estimated speed
up to 80mph on a dark road using only their parking lights.
Erinys vehicles were not under fire, and they were not carrying
Monroe's right leg was sheared off by the force of the collision,
he was thrown 40ft into the air.
Erinys employees, who were driving in a four-vehicle convoy,
passed through two US checkpoints moments before Monroe was hit,
they had been warned that more US troops were ahead, the suit
But it accuses the Erinys team of ignoring the warnings, and
so fast that they failed to see Monroe or the five-tonne truck he
guarding. "Although extreme driving manoeuvres may be appropriate
private security contractors at certain times, driving recklessly
a high rate of speed with no headlights through a parked US
after being specifically warned is not," the law suit said.
At the time of Monroe's death, Erinys had been providing security
the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The company denies any wrongdoing and says it was cleared by a
military investigation. "It was a very tragic accident for
Erinys and its employees have been thoroughly exonerated,"
spokesman for the firm told the Guardian yesterday.
The Monroe family's law suit comes at a time when the Bush
administration is under growing pressure at home to rein in
security firms and the lucrative business of guarding US
and troops. The Iraqi government last week revoked the legal
under which Blackwater and the other firms had operated.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the authorities stepped up their
on private security contractors yesterday, raiding the premises of
British-based firm, Olympus, in Kabul. It was the eighth
security firm to be raided and closed in a month, but the
Erinys was the subject of a great deal of attention in the summer
2003 when the firm was awarded an $80m (ú39m), 18-month contract
provide security for Iraq's oil refineries and pipelines. The
created a new entity called Erinys Iraq.
Erinys has also been caught up in controversy closer to home.
before his murder, the former Russian security services
Alexander Litvinenko, visited the London offices of Erinys where
traces of polonium 210 were found.
The first recruits of the 14,000-strong oil protection force
by Erinys Iraq were members of the Iraqi Free Forces, the
militia that was headed by Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who
America's protege in the run-up to the invasion. Members of
Chalabi's inner circle were among the founding partners of
Iraq. Erinys now has about 1,000 employees in Iraq, the
said. Most are UK nationals.
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