Dozens fo Colombian mercenaries, led by controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince, have been transferred to the United Arab Emirates to assist the oil-rich state’s security forces, the New York Times reported Sunday.
According to the report, the Colombians take part in an 800-men strong, American-led private army
The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents in hands of the paper show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.
Hiring Colombians and others from halfway around the world falls within the policies of not hiring Muslims, who could not be counted to kill fellow Muslims, former employees of Prince’s firm said.
One former mercenary for the company dubbed “R2” told the newspaper “They wanted people who had a lot of experience in countries with conflicts, like Colombia.”
Mr. Rincón’s visa carried a special stamp from the U.A.E. military intelligence branch, which is overseeing the entire project, that allowed him to move through customs and immigration without being questioned. He soon found himself in the midst of the camp’s daily routines, which mirrored those of American military training. “We would get up at 5 a.m. and we would start physical exercises,” Mr. Rincón said. His assignment included manual labor at the expanding complex, he said. Other former employees said the troops — outfitted in Emirati military uniforms — were split into companies to work on basic infantry maneuvers, learn navigation skills and practice sniper training.
According to the New York Times, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention for Prince. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless.
He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
Prince, who reportedly has kept his name out of the books of the company, has been living in the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi since the Blackwater controversy.
The company received $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E. government, whose ambassador to Washington has denied the existence of the mercenary army.