Talk:Basra, Iraq raid by UK forces to rescue soldiers from police

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Latest comment: 18 years ago by Reubenapple in topic background to Basra, and other details
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rescued from police?


the story seems a little more complicated, according to the sources they were found in the hands of militia. perhaps the title should be changed some to reflect this. something like: policestation and house in Basra, Iraq raided to retrieve UK soldiers. Boneyard 10:03, 20 September 2005 (UTC)Reply

Title is accurate. One has one's doubts about the Basra police's choice of "prison subcontractors", but the fact is that they stormed a police station to locate the "subcontractors", so that is part of the raid. All indications are that the police could easily retrieved the soldiers themselves, i.e. the soldiers were never actually out of the control of the civilian athorities in Basra. - Nyarlathotep 11:07, 20 September 2005 (UTC)Reply

Disagree. From the BBC article, "Two British soldiers whose imprisonment prompted UK troops to storm a Basra police station were later rescued from militia ... local police revealed the whereabouts of the two men after the station was stormed.". This sounds like the UK soldiers were handed over to the militia, the Iraqi authorities started saying they didn't have them, and the solution was to extract the location, "At the point of a 30mm cannon". This is great news material, and I don't think the title does it justice. How about UK forces raid police for location of milita-held soldiers. This covers the multiple raids, the fact that the location of the soldiers wasn't exactly forthcoming, and that non-goverment forces were involved. Calling local thugs who work for some warlord "prison subcontractors" is ridiculous. --Brianmc 20:59, 20 September 2005 (UTC)Reply

Your title proposed obfuscates several important facts:
1) We the arrests were presumably "legitimate" (whatever that means in Iraq). Our title should not imply that the arrests were not legitimate, unless new sources support that conclusion, which is unlikely.
2) The Shia militia appears to have the power to hold prisoners "ligitimately" deligated from a civilian authority; they are not an insurgent group. If you read all the sources, its clear that the militia was holding many prisoners for the police. So we must assume that the Basra police had an ongoing arangment with militia, like legitimacy in exchange for help. As I said, all indications are that the police can get prisoners back from the militia. Our title must not imply that the militia did not have its these powers legitimately deligated to it by a civilian authority, unless new sources revel otherwise, which is unlikely.
So why did the British react like this? Torture might be one "service" the militia provides to the police. Or the British might have feared that it was. But its all guess work at the moment. As it stands, both British raids will create political difficulties, and that is our story. - Nyarlathotep 00:17, 21 September 2005 (UTC)Reply

background to Basra, and other details


Hi all - I'm brand new to Wikinews so please forgive and educate me on errors of format, etiquette, and the like.

After reading and researching this Wikinews article, I would like to make the following suggestions:

1) Iraqi security forces in general, and the Basra police force in particular, have been infiltrated by militiamen, insurgents, and 'terrorists,' according to the Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwafaq al-Rubie ("Insurgents 'inside Iraqi police'". BBC News Online, 20 September, 2005) and also according to Steven Vincent, the American freelance journalist who was murdered in August after writing an article about infiltration in the Basra police force ("British, Iraqis Disagree on Basra Events". Washington Post, 20 September, 2005.) The fact that the Basra police is known to have been infiltrated by 'the enemy' must explain, at least in part, the extraordinary measures taken by the British Army to reclaim its 2 soldiers. It may even be part of the reason that the Basra police apparently refused orders from the Ministry of the Interior and from "local judical authorities" to release the 2 prisoners to the British. ("Reid defends Basra jail raid". Guardian Unlimited, 20 September, 2005. and "British, Iraqis Disagree on Basra Events". Washington Post, 20 September, 2005.) The issue of insurgent infiltration of Iraqi (and in particular Basra) security forces should be added to the article.

2) A number of British and Iraqi officials, some at the cabinet level, made strong statements about the incident that could add colour to the article. British commander Brigadier John Lorimer expressed his "deep concern" at the "unacceptable" transfer of British prisoners to militia custody, and John Reid, the British Secretary of Defense, said that the British Army had been "absolutely right" to reclaim its arrested soldiers by force, while Mohammed al-Waili, the Governor of Basra, slammed the action as "barbaric, savage and irresponsible," and a spokesman for the Iraqi Prime Minister called the raid on the police station a "very unfortunate development." Moqtada Al-Sadr aide Ali al-Yassiri called the alleged shooting of Iraqi police by the 2 British soliders an act of "international terrorism" and their liberation a "dangerous precedent." ("Attacks in Iraq Kill 9 Americans". New York Times, 20 September, 2005. "Reid defends Basra jail raid". Guardian Unlimited, 20 September, 2005. "UK Soldiers 'freed from militia'". BBC News Online, 20 September, 2005.)

3) Since fatalities and injuries resulted, casualty estimates for the incident might be mentioned. It is estimated that 2 Iraqi civilians were killed, and that perhaps 25 Iraqis and 3 British soldiers were injured. The 2 British prisoners were only lighted injured and "are expected to return to duty shortly," according to the British Secretary of Defense. ("British Army Storms Basra Jail to Free 2 Soldiers from Arrest". New York Times, 20 September 2005. "British Soldiers Free Two from Iraq Jail". Washington Post, 20 September, 2005.)

4) It seems important to the story that over the weekend the British had arrested 3 of al-Sadr's leading militiamen, admittedly "prominent individuals in Basra," according to Brigadier John Lorrimer, and that these arrests lead to violent protests by hundreds of al-Sadr supporters. Iraqi MP Ali Dabagh, and also an anonymous Iraqi Interior Ministry official, speculated that al-Sadr's men wanted to use the 2 British prisoners to force the release of their arrested leaders. ("British Army Storms Basra Jail to Free 2 Soldiers from Arrest". New York Times, 20 September 2005. and "Multinational Division (South East) Names Captured Terror Suspects". U.S. Centcom,, 19 September, 2005. "UK Admits Basra jail raid"., 20 September, 2005.)

5) It might be pointed out that British violence against Iraqi police, however justified, constitutes a challange to Iraqi sovereignty that could only be humiliating to the Iraqi population in general. Hence the angry and demagogic tone taken by Basra's Governor and by al-Sadr, and the more diplomatic but still angry tone of the Prime Minister's Office. First, the 2 British detinees allegedly shot Iraqi policemen, then the British Army sent in armoured units and helicopters to break them out of jail, and when that failed, they extracted information about the 2 men from Iraqi police "at the point of a 30mm cannon." ("UK Soldiers Freed from Militia". BBC News Online, 20 September, 2005.)

--Apple 03:38, 21 September 2005 (UTC)Reply

The following Reuters report raises some disturbing questions.

Why were undercover British "soldiers" wearing traditional Arab headscarves firing at Iraqi police?

The incident took place just prior to a major religious event in Basra.

The report suggests that the police thought the British soldiers looked "suspicious". What was the nature of their mission?

Occupation forces are supposesd to be collaborating with Iraqi authorities. Why did Britsh Forces have to storm the prison using tanks and armoured vehicles to liberate the British undercover agents?

   "British forces used up to 10 tanks " supported by helicopters " to smash through the walls of the jail and free the two British servicemen." 

Was there concern that the British "soldiers" who were being held by the Iraqi National Guard would be obliged to reveal the nature and objective of their undercover mission?

A report of Al Jazeera TV, which preceeded the raid on the prison, suggests that the British undercover soldiers were driving a booby trapped car loaded with ammunition. The Al Jazeera report (see below) also suggests that the riots directed against British military presence were motivated because the British undercover soldiers were planning to explode the booby trapped car in the centre of Basra:

   [Anchorman Al-Habib al-Ghuraybi] We have with us on the telephone from Baghdad Fattah al-Shaykh, member of the Iraqi National Assembly. What are the details of and the facts surrounding   this incident?
   [Al-Shaykh] In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. There have been continuous provocative acts since the day before yesterday by the British forces against the peaceful sons of Basra. There have been indiscriminate arrests, the most recent of which was the arrest of Shaykh Ahmad al-Farqusi and two Basra citizens on the pretext that they had carried out terrorist operations to kill US soldiers. This is a baseless claim. This was confirmed to us by [name indistinct] the second secretary at the British Embassy in Baghdad, when we met with him a short while ago. He said that there is evidence on this. We say: You should come up with this evidence or forget about this issue. If you really want to look for truth, then we should resort to the Iraqi justice away from the British provocations against the sons of Basra, particularly what happened today when the sons of Basra caught two non-Iraqis, who seem to be Britons and were in a car of the Cressida type. It was a booby-trapped car laden with ammunition and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market. However, the sons of the city of Basra arrested them. They [the two non-Iraqis] then fired at the people there and killed some of them. The two arrested persons are now at the Intelligence Department in Basra, and they were held by the National Guard force, but the British occupation forces are still surrounding this department in an attempt to absolve them of the crime.
   [Al-Ghuraybi] Thank you Fattah al-Shaykh, member of the National Assembly and deputy for Basra.
   Text of report by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 19 September (emphasis added)

Is this an isolated incident or is part of a pattern?

More significantly, have the occupation forces been involved in similar undercover missions? Syrian TV (Sept 19, 2005) reports the following:

   Ten Iraqis - seven police commandos, two civilians and a child - were killed and more than 10 others wounded in the explosion of two car bombs near two checkpoints in Al-Mahmudiyah and Al-Latifiyah south of Baghdad while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were heading towards the city of Karbala to mark the anniversary of a religious event.
   And in a significant incident in the city of Basra, which is also marking the same religious event, Iraqi demonstrators set fire to two British tanks near a police station after Iraqi police had arrested two British soldiers disguised in civilian clothes for opening fire on police. Eight armoured British vehicles surrounded the police station before the eruption of the confrontations. A policeman at the scene said the two detained Britons were wearing traditional Iraqi jallabahs [loose cloaks] and wigs.

[Italics added]

An indepth independent inquiry should be ordered by Britain's House of Commons into the circumstances of this event.