Erik Prince: Founder of mercenary group accused of killing Iraqi civilians ‘to run for Senate’

One of America’s most controversial mercenaries is being encouraged to make a run for the US Senate – the latest “insurgent” candidate to be backed by Donald Trump’s former strategist, Steve Bannon.

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, a private security contractor firm used extensively by the administration of George W Bush, is said to be “seriously considering” challenging Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, who currently holds a senior position in the Senate Republican leadership.

Mr Bannon, the arch-nationalist who served as Mr Trump’s chief strategist until he was fired this summer, is seeking to push numerous anti-establishment candidates to challenge mainstream Republicans across the country ahead of the 2018 mid-terms. Last month, Mr Bannon’s populist mission received a boost when the candidate he backed in the Republican primary for the senate seat in Alabama, beat the mainstream politician who had been supported by Mr Trump and the Republican leadership.

14 Iraqi civilians were killed and 18 injured in an incident in Baghdad involving Blackwater contractors in September 2007 (AP)

Reports said Mr Prince, a former US Navy SEAL officer, spent the weekend in Wyoming to discuss a possible campaign with family members. To be eligible to run, Mr Prince, who currently lives in Middleburg, Virginia, would need to establish residency in Wyoming. His family owns a large ranch in the state’s Wapiti Valley.

Mr Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, generated both headlines and controversy in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when the Bush administration sought to make use of private contractors as part its so-called war on terror. Human rights groups highlighted reports of torture and abuse linked to various mercenaries.

The Associated Press said Mr Prince received millions of dollars worth of government contracts. Yet in 2007, several Blackwater employees were involved in the shooting deaths of 14 civilians in Baghdad. Four former employees were convicted on federal charges in 2014 – one for murder and the others for voluntary manslaughter. 

But an appeals court in August ordered a new trial for the defendant convicted of murder and re-sentencings for the defendants convicted of manslaughter.

This summer, Mr Prince, 48, whose business was bought by investors in 2010 and which has since been renamed Academi, found himself back in Washington where he was pitching a plan to bring an end to America’s longest running war – the conflict in Afghanistan.

Mr Prince has been shopping around a plan to replace thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan with contractors from foreign countries led by a “viceroy” with huge power over US military policy. The plan received the support of Mr Bannon.

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“This plan would use former Special Operations veterans as contractors who would live, train and patrol alongside their Afghan counterparts at the lowest company and battalion levels – where it matters most,” Mr Price wrote.

Mr Bannon, now back at the helm of the powerful Breitbart News, has said he hopes to support numerous anti-establishment candidates, making use not just his news platform but millions of dollars from New York hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah.

Mr Bannon has already indicated he has plans to back challenges in Arizona, Nevada and Mississippi. Yet he also has his sights on Nebraska and Tennessee, where the retirement of Senator Bob Corker has created a vacancy.

Neither Mr Barrasso or Mr Prince have yet to comment on the report. Mr Prince did not immediately respond to inquiries.