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Basra governor ends co-operation with British

London Independent | September 23 2005

British forces in Basra appear to be facing fresh confrontation with Iraqi authorities after announcing that they will step up patrols in the city.

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The intensification of military operations was announced as the governor of Basra declared the city council had unanimously decided to end co-operation with the British military after Monday's raid to free two SAS soldiers. Since the incident, in which a British armoured vehicle knocked down the walls of a police complex - and soldiers came under petrol bomb attack - there have been far fewer overt signs of troops in the city centre.

But the Ministry of Defence said last night that the patrols will be stepped up "progressively" after a brief hiatus.

Hundreds of Iraqi policemen have taken part in a demonstration against the British military and the prospect has arisen of armed British and Iraqi contingents on the streets at the same time.

Iraqi authorities claim five civilians and an Iraqi policeman were killed in the operation that followed the arrest of the two SAS men by Iraqi police. Mohammed al-Walli, the governor of Basra, said: "The council has decided to stop all co-operation with the British until they meet three demands - to apologise for what happened, to guarantee it does not happen again, and provide compensation for all the damage they did during the operation". Munathil Mayahi, a council member, said: "What would the British have done if this had happened to them? Of course the families of the martyrs must be compensated."

In Baghdad, Iraq's National Security Adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie called the British military operation " a flagrant breach of Iraqi sovereignty which we should not tolerate".

Stewart Innes, an official with the British consulate in Basra, said: "We will negotiate with the governing council in order to reach a solution". He said no meetings had yet been scheduled.

Colonel Nick Henderson, who led the operation to free the two SAS soldiers, insisted no rescue would have been necessary if the Iraqi security forces had handed over the men.

"We looked inside the buildings and we didn't find them and we discovered they were moved elsewhere," he said.

On the streets of Basra, some appeared to blame the British for the violence. Ibrahim al-Raheem, a shopkeeper, said: "Why do we need foreign forces here? And if they must stay here then they must respect our officials. The British are arrogant."

But others expressed worries about the Iraqi police. A student, Jawad, said: "Many of them are corrupt and they represent some extreme Shia organisations. A lot of people are very scared of them.

 

 

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