8 December 2005 Edition
Spicer's mercenaries accused of murdering Iraqis
BY FERN LANE
A private 'military services' company run by notorious former Scots Guards Officer Tim Spicer, Aegis Defence Services, has become embroiled in controversy after 'trophy' video footage of some of its employees apparently shooting at random at Iraqi civilians was posted on the internet. The footage has once again raised serious concerns about the use of mercenaries in Iraq who appear to operate above the law and who can, and do, kill civilians with an even greater level of impunity than that already offered to regular US and UK military personnel.
The footage was posted by an organisation calling itself Aegis Iraq PSD Teams, which declares on its website that "This site does not belong to Aegis Defence Ltd. It belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul of the company." However, since the story hit the headlines, the footage has now been removed and the message board closed "for maintenance". Although Aegis officially denies it has anything to do with the website, it does now contain a message from Spicer, which reminds employees to: "Remember that your job and those of your colleagues indirectly relies on the maintenance of our contract. Refrain from posting anything which is detrimental to the company since this could result in the loss or curtailment of our contract with resultant loss for everybody."
The website originally showed four separate clips showing automatic gunfire being directed at civilian vehicles from the back of what is believed to be an SUV. In two cases, cars which are seen being raked with gunfire lurch out of control before either hitting other cars or coming to a stop. In neither case is anyone seen getting out of the car, although other civilians can be seen scattering in panic. In a third clip, a car is hit with gunfire before coming to a stop. On that occasion one individual is seen emerging from the car. English speakers can be heard behind the camera and at least one of those doing the shooting is believed to be South African. A number of websites have named him as a former British Army soldier named Danny Heydenreycher. All the footage is accompanied by a soundtrack of Elvis.
Aegis operates in Iraq on foot of a contract from the US Department of Defence worth $293 million. Serious questions have been raised by politicians and media in the US regarding the competence and legitimacy of a brand new company headed by a man with Spicer's unsavoury history. For its own part, the British Government officially denies that it has entered into any contract with Aegis. Ironically, less than a week before the latest Spicer scandal, the company was named Small Consultancy Firm of the Year in the British International Expertise Awards by the British Consultants and Construction Bureau for its "reconstruction work in Iraq".
The involvement of Spicer's company in Iraq is certainly alarming given his history of being implicated in human rights' abuses and of breaking international law. He was the commanding officer of Scots Guardsmen Fisher and Wright, who murdered Peter McBride, and campaigned for their release, reinstatement in the army and subsequent promotion. He was also the founder of Sandline International, the private military company which was forced to close after it was found to have been involved in the brutal suppression of an uprising in Papua New Guinea and to have illegally sold weapons to Sierra Leone, where another of its founders, Simon Mann, currently languishes in prison.