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A helicopter and an armored vehicle operated by Blackwater Worldwide released a chemical similar to tear gas at a Baghdad checkpoint in 2005, The New York Times reported Thursday.

A Blackwater convoy appeared to be slowed by traffic and may have used CS gas, normally only used by the U.S. military in Iraq under the strictest conditions, to clear a path, according to officers with the 3rd Infantry Division.

There was no sign of violence at the checkpoint, they told the Times.

No soldiers exposed to the gas required medical attention, and it’s unclear whether any Iraqis did, the paper said.

Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Blackwater, said in an e-mail to the Times that the Blackwater teams were trying to provide passage for a motorcade. The team mistakenly used CS gas instead of a smoke canister, she said.

She said the incident was reported to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the embassy’s chief security officer and the Pentagon conducted a full investigation. But Washington and Baghdad military officials said they could not confirm that an investigation had been done.

CS gas, which can cause burning and watering eyes, skin irritation, and nausea and vomiting, is normally used in riot-control situations and only used by the U.S. military in Iraq with the approval of top commanders, the paper reported.

Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq have come under increased scrutiny following incidents in which Iraqi and American military officials say undue force has been used.


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