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Joint Iraqi-U.S. review begins in wake of Blackwater firefight

  • Story Highlights
  • Commission will examine issues "of safety and security" related to contractors
  • September shootout has sparked criticism, evaluation of military contractors
  • Blackwater, Iraqi officials have starkly different accounts of what happened
  • Separate bombings in Baghdad kill 11 civilians, wound about 12
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi officials met Sunday to kick off a review stemming from a deadly September firefight -- involving a Blackwater USA security detail -- that reportedly left 17 people dead.

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Lawyer Hassan Jabbar lies in a hospital last month after he was allegedly injured by Blackwater contractors.

While Iraqi officials say the victims were innocent bystanders -- most of them civilians -- Blackwater says its contractors were part of a U.S. State Department security entourage that came under fire in a Baghdad square.

Meanwhile, a three-person panel's official Iraqi probe into the incident -- ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki -- raised the number of Iraqis killed to 17 and determined Blackwater's gunfire was unwarranted and that its guards should face trial, the government told The Associated Press.

However, an order from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority appears to shield security contractors from Iraqi laws.

The first meeting of the Joint Commission on Protective Security Detail Operations was chaired Sunday by Iraqi Defense Minister Abdulqadir Mohammed Jassim and Patricia Butenis, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy, according to a joint statement.

The pair "expressed the mutual commitment of the Iraqi government and the U.S. government to work together to evaluate issues of safety and security related to personal security detail operations in Iraq," the statement said. Video Watch how supervision has been tightened on contractors »

The objective is to recommend ways to ensure that private security details do not endanger public safety, the statement said, adding that Jassim and Butenis "agreed to continue their coordination and to complete the process of inquiry in order to prevent the recurrence of any incidents in the future."

The September 16 shootout has sparked intense Iraqi and U.S. criticism of private military contractors. It also has prompted initiatives to reexamine contractors' roles in Iraq.

Iraqi and Blackwater officials have starkly different accounts of what happened during the firefight.

Iraqi officials said Blackwater bodyguards indiscriminately opened fire in Nusoor Square, killing civilians and a traffic police officer. According to a senior Iraqi investigator on Sunday, 17 people were killed and 24 more were wounded.

The State Department has said only that "innocent life was lost."

Blackwater, however, said its contractors "acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack."

"The 'civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies, and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire," the company has said.

The FBI has assumed the lead from the State Department on the U.S. investigation.

Triple bombing kills 11

Three separate bombs killed at least 11 civilians and wounded 12 others Sunday around Baghdad, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

One bomb exploded in the Baladiat area of eastern Baghdad, killing five civilians and wounding five others. In southern Baghdad's Dora district, another bomb killed three civilians and wounded three others.

A third bomb went off near the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding four others.

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Also on Sunday, six unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official told CNN.

That brings the total number of bodies found this month to 50. In September, 301 bodies were found in Baghdad -- the lowest number this year. In August there were 428. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

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