WASHINGTON: Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, including many Americans who work for the U.S. Embassy, The New York Times reported Monday.
Citing unnamed industry officials, the newspaper said the detentions have occurred mainly at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital.
US troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, leaving behind an Iraqi security force that officials said could maintain internal security.
The contractors were detained after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about their documents, including visas, weapons permits and authorizations to drive certain routes, the report said.
Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks, the paper noted.
Last month, two Americans, a Fijian and 12 Iraqis employed by Triple Canopy, a private security company, were detained for 18 days after their convoy from Kalsu, south of Baghdad, to Taji, north of the capital, was stopped for what Iraqi officials said was improper paperwork, The Times said.
One of the Americans, Alex Antiohos, 32, a former Army Green Beret medic who served in the Iraq war, said in a telephone interview that he and his colleagues were kept at an Iraqi army camp. He said they fed insect-infested plates of rice and fish, forced to sleep in a former jail, and were verbally threatened by an Iraqi general, according to the report.
"At times, I feared for my safety," Antiohos is quoted as saying.
Just after the last US troops left, the Iraqis stopped issuing and renewing many weapons licenses and other authorizations held by contractors, the paper noted.
The restrictions led to a sequence of events in which contractors were being detained for having expired documents that the government would not renew, The Times said.