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December 26, 2006

British/Iraqi Troops Storm Milita Gangster Dominated Basra "Police" Station

Actually the "Special Crimes Unit" was just that-- a unit devoted to perpetrating special crimes, like kidnapping, torture, and vengeance killing.

The British let this cancer fester for far too long. And while they freed 127 victims -- many showing signs of real torture, like crushed hands -- the perpetrators had mostly fled when they stormed in.

So they blew the building up. Big whoop. Many of the detainees who were tortured seem to have been terrorists themselves, though.

Yesterday's operation, one of the biggest since the 2003 invasion, was the latest stage of a drive to stamp out renegade Shia Muslim militia elements believed to have infiltrated police operating from the compound.

Late on Christmas Eve, using night-vision glasses, an overwhelming force of British troops and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) headed for the compound. Their Challenger tanks and Warrior armoured vehicles were fired upon from alleyways leading to the al-Jameat police station. The British used heavy machineguns to kill seven Iraqi gunmen.

At 2am local time (11pm GMT), with helicopters circling overhead, they began the raid to capture the station. With the rogue police leaders already removed, the troops met limited resistance from remaining officers. There was an exchange of fire but no casualties. Policemen were arrested under warrants issued by the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

The soldiers burst into the prisoners’ quarters, a large concrete-walled room with a few mats on the hard floor, crammed with men groaning in pain and fear.

The 127 prisoners, suspected criminals, found by the British received medical attention. Crushed hands and feet strongly suggested that they had been treated brutally by their interrogators. The men, many needing to be carried, were taken by the ISF to the Warren custody facility in the oil-rich southern port.

There are fears others have escaped. Some reports suggested the British had expected to find 178 detainees. Basra’s police chief, furious that the raid happened without his knowledge, said there had been 147 locked up. There was no accounting for "20 of the most dangerous of them, who have carried out bomb attacks in Basra", he said.


After yesterday’s raid, part of the wider Operation Sinbad to clean up Basra’s police, British bases in the city came under mortar attack.

Major Burbridge said: "We identified the Serious Crimes Unit as, frankly, too far gone. We just had to get rid of it. For some time we’ve been talking about culling the police force. Well, this is exactly what we’ve done. We’ve removed a very significant and nasty part of the police force which has been scaring people in Basra."



Brigadier Mohammad al-Musawi, Basra’s police chief, nevertheless accused the British of trying to stir up trouble. General Ali Ibrahim, an Iraqi army commander, told reporters the raid was illegal. He said: "We could have solved this problem ourselves between Iraqi forces but the British overreacted."

Shockingly, there is a backlash against the Brits by angry Shiites.

The British military’s demolition of a Basra police station that they claim was used as a base for death squads has caused a political backlash, creating possible complications for the British campaign to purge the southern port city’s notoriously corrupt police force.

However, in an environment where militias, criminal gangs, political parties and factions within the police force all overlap in a patchwork of often competing alliances, it is difficult to tell exactly how widespread is the opposition to the British move against what they called a rogue police unit.


Basra citizens frequently complain about their police force, which many say is the product of a local authority that is fractured between several large Shia Islamist factions, including the Fadila party, the radical Sadrist movement, and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, plus a handful of smaller ones.

In the absence of clear dominance by one faction or the other, each has cultivated its allies within the police force.

Last summer, in response to a surge in violence, Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, deployed the army on the streets and formed a special security committee to tackle the port city’s anarchy – a move opposed by some local politicians.

Some citizens have praised Mr Maliki for taking a firm hand against local corruption. Militias such as the Mahdi Army, however, are believed to have strong roots in the city’s extensive slums, where many people reportedly blame the British for the lack of any improvements in their conditions over the past three years.

At least twice in the past the Basra provincial council has promised to cut off relations with British forces, but such boycotts have been relatively short-lived.

It's always someone else's fault with these guys, huh?

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posted by Ace at 07:16 PM

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