zer"0" Posted September 21, 2005 Share Posted September 21, 2005 http://wireservice.wired.com/wired/story.a...storyId=1091467 By Alaa Habib BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq's government called for calm on Tuesday after British forces sparked fury in the increasingly volatile south of the country with a controversial rescue of two undercover soldiers detained by police. British forces used an armored fighting vehicle on Monday to burst into an Iraqi jail in search of the soldiers. The British commander said he learned they had been handed to militia and ordered their rescue from a nearby house. "It is a very unfortunate development that the British forces should try to release their forces the way it happened," Haider al-Ebadi, an adviser to Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, told a news conference in Baghdad. A later statement from the prime minister's office said there was no crisis in relations with Britain and added that the Iraqi interior ministry was investigating the incident. "We will await the outcome of that inquiry," the statement said. "In the meantime we urge all sides to remain calm." The operation followed rioting that began, according to police and local officials, when the two soldiers fired on a police patrol. At least two Iraqis were killed in the violence. Southern Iraq is home to several Shi'ite militias, including one loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who fiercely opposes the presence of foreign troops and has led uprisings against the U.S. military. Many Iraqis say the heavily armed militias act with impunity and are not answerable to the central government. Tensions in Basra had risen on Sunday when British forces arrested two leading members of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia. The tough British response to the arrest of its undercover soldiers is likely to further strain ties between Iraqis and British troops, who had maintained relatively good relations with the Shi'ite population of Basra with a low-profile security policy, in contrast to tougher U.S. tactics. Britain, which has 8,500 troops in Iraq, said on Sunday it would send more if necessary. But a leaked memo signed by Defense Secretary John Reid in July envisioned bringing most of them home over the next year. British soldiers have faced less popular anger in Iraq than their U.S. allies, but Iraqis vented their fury in Basra. "Four tanks invaded the area. A tank cannon struck a room where a policeman was praying," said policeman Abbas Hassan, standing next to mangled cars outside the police station and jail that he said were crushed by British military vehicles. "This is terrorism. All we had was rifles." Iraqi state television footage showed the detained British soldiers unshaven and looking nervous as police looked over wigs, Arab headdresses, anti-tank missiles and electronic equipment, all apparently used in their mission. Images of the pair seemed sure to fuel suspicions among militias in Basra and elsewhere who believe foreign troops are on a secret mission to exploit Iraq. Unrest in the Shi'ite south, home to Iraq's biggest oil reserves, would pile more pressure on the Iraqi government, which is already fighting a Sunni Arab insurgency further north. "It is inappropriate for any Iraqi to be insulted by a British or an American or any other occupier, we reject the occupying forces," said Basra resident Abbas Jassim. "The British violated the government, police and the sons of this country, which we all reject." British forces said the soldiers were in danger. "From an early stage I had good reason to believe the lives of the two soldiers were at risk," Brigadier John Lorimer, the British commander in Basra, said in a statement. BOOST FOR SHI'ITE MILITIAS The raid could boost the popularity of radical cleric Sadr. "What the two Britons did was literally international terrorism," Ali al-Yassiri, an aide to Sadr, told Reuters. "If the British had condemned this, it would have calmed the situation but instead they came and demanded them back which sets a dangerous precedent." Lorimer said troops had been sent to the police station where the two men had been detained to help ensure their safety. "As shown on television, these troops were attacked with firebombs and rockets by a violent and determined crowd." Elsewhere in Iraq, violence continued in areas controlled by U.S. forces. Bomb blasts in Iraq since Monday killed nine Americans, including a U.S. State Department security officer, U.S. defense officials said. A bomb blast in the northern city of Mosul killed Stephen Eric Sullivan, the State Department assistant regional security officer, and three U.S. private security guards on Monday. The other American deaths were four soldiers killed in two separate bomb attacks in Ramadi on Monday, and a soldier in a police brigade who was killed by a bomb 75 miles north of Baghdad on Tuesday. (Additional reporting by Matthew Jones in London, Mussab al-Khairalla in Baghdad and Adam Tanner in Fort Hood) http://wireservice.wired.com/wired/story.a...storyId=1091715 Troops to stay in Iraq despite anger: Britain Tuesday, September 20, 2005 8:39 p.m. ET By Alaa Habib BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday it would keep troops in Iraq as long as both London and Baghdad felt necessary despite fury in an increasingly volatile south over a rescue of two undercover soldiers held by Iraqi police. British forces used an armored vehicle on Monday to burst into an Iraqi jail in the city of Basra in search of the soldiers. The British commander said he learned they had been handed to militia and ordered their rescue from a nearby house. The British operation followed rioting that began, according to police and local officials, when the two soldiers fired on a police patrol. At least two Iraqis were killed in the violence. "We don't have a timetable or a set date that we've already decided for when we will hand back (control to the Iraqis)," a Defense Ministry spokesman said in London. "It is an ongoing process and we will work with the Iraqi authorities to determine the best time (to withdraw) when it comes to it," said the spokesman, echoing past statements by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's main ally on Iraq. The spokesman was commenting on a report in the Guardian newspaper that plans to withdraw substantial numbers of British troops from Iraq next month had been abandoned after the explosion of violence in Basra on Monday. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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