Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has questioned the future role of US private security company Blackwater in Iraq following a number of high profile shooting incidents.

Mr Maliki appeared to toughen his stand against the company over a shooting in Baghdad last month in which 11 Iraqis died. This incident sparked outrage among Iraqis.

In Washington yesterday, a House of Representatives committee heard that Blackwater guards had been involved in 195 shooting incidents in Iraq since the start of 2005, including 16 Iraqi casualties. The committee also heard that Blackwater fired first in 84% of the incidents.

The company has said its guards reacted lawfully to an attack on a convoy they were protecting during the incident.

Immediately after the incident, Mr Maliki's government vowed to prosecute those involved but later said no action would be taken until after a joint investigation with US officials. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has promised a full review of how US security details are conducted in Iraq.

Blackwater, which has received US government contracts worth more than $1bn dollars, is one of the biggest security contractors in Iraq.