Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 13:09 UK

Civilians 'train as Iraq guards'

Security on the streets of Baghdad
Personal protection guards in Baghdad risk kidnap or death

Big salaries are tempting civilians to become bodyguards in Iraq where two Britons doing a similar job were found dead, a security guard has revealed.

The ex-soldier, who did not want to be named, told the BBC people with no military training were taking courses despite the risks of kidnap or death.

He said he could earn £80,000 a year, but only spent £300 in three months.

The bodies of two British security guards held hostage in Iraq for two years were identified last week.

'Strict vetting'

The Foreign Office confirmed they were Jason Swindlehurst, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Jason Creswell, originally from Glasgow.

There is no suggestion that either of them was not fully trained or properly experienced.

However, the unnamed guard told BBC Radio 5 live's Breakfast programme that several former soldiers and ordinary people are "itching" to go out to Iraq or Afghanistan, lured by the financial rewards.

I wouldn't send them to the corner shop for a loaf of bread let alone put them in the centre of Baghdad escorting a client around
British security guard in Iraq

He said: "There are people who want to go out to Iraq, and they've never even picked up a water pistol, let alone a pistol, and if they picked up a pistol they wouldn't know what to do with it.

Nightclub doormen and a supermarket cleaner were among those who had taken security and awareness courses, he added.

"With the mindset of some of them, I wouldn't send them to the corner shop for a loaf of bread let alone put them in the centre of Baghdad escorting a client around," he said.

The guard, who left the Army in 2004 after 11 years, says he works for three months in the UK a year and four or five abroad.

His pay for surveillance and close protection work and anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden have allowed him to buy a sports car in cash and to have no mortgage, he said.

Although he suspects civilians may already be working out in Iraq, he had not come across any himself.

He also made it clear that the companies which employed him carried out strict vetting, and demanded proof of military experience.

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