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Prince of Blackwater heads to Africa

Erik Prince, who made a fortune in Iraq thanks to his politically connected and controversial Blackwater military contractor, is leading a group of Chinese investors on a hunt for natural resources and investment opportunities in Africa.

By Staff writer / November 20, 2012

Pictured in this June 2007 file photograph, Blackwater CEO and founder Erik Prince has begun a bold new business venture, leading a group of Chinese investors on a hunt for natural resources and investment opportunities in Africa..

Sara D. Davis/AP/File

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Erik Prince, the man who founded Blackwater, the private military contractor that became synonymous with mercenary excess during the Iraq war, has apparently begun a bold new business venture: He's going to be investing with a group of unnamed Chinese government-linked companies in resource extraction and infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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At least that's according to the South China Morning Post, which published an exclusive interview with Mr. Prince yesterday. The paper says Mr. Prince has founded an investment company called Frontier Resource Group earlier this year as an "Africa-dedicated investment firm partnered with major Chinese enterprises, including at least one state-owned resource giant that is keen to pour money into the resource-rich continent."

Prince made a fortune during the early and extremely fat years for contractors of the global war on terror, thanks to political connections and an appetite for risk. Roughly $2 billion of US contracts in Iraq flowed through the company. But the name "Blackwater" eventually grew tarnished under the weight of alleged corruption and murder in the field. It was Blackwater employees who were who were ambushed and killed in Fallujah in 2004, sparking the US assault on that Iraqi town that helped further polarize the war. In 2007, panicking Blackwater guards unleashed a barrage of fire in Nisour Square in Baghdad, killing 17 civilians.

The massacre cemented Iraqi fury at private military contractors and set the stage for the Iraqi governments refusal to allow US forces to remain in Iraq with immunity from local prosecution, something that forced the US departure at the end of last year. By the time Prince sold out of Blackwater in 2010, which he'd renamed "Xe" in an attempt to dissociate his venture from its unsavory public image, US government contracts were drying up. In April 2010, five senior Blackwater executives (not Prince though) were indicted on weapons violations and making false statements to law enforcement.

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