This Doesn’t Look Good.

And I’ve seen nothing on this side of the blogosphere about it.


The British government has defended the actions of its troops in southern Iraq who forced their way into a prison and freed two of their soldiers arrested by Iraqi police.

It said its troops smashed into the jail cell only after negotiations to secure the release of the two men failed.

This comes as a suicide car bomber attacked a US diplomatic convoy in the northern city of Mosul, killing four Americans and wounding two others.

Defence Secretary John Reid told the BBC the two soldiers should have been handed over to British forces after being arrested by local police.

Earlier, senior UK army officer Brigadier John Lorimer said in a statement the men wound up in the custody of Iraqi militias.

“We don’t actually know the details of why these people were handed over – whether it was under threats or by collusion, or whatever,” Mr Reid said.

“What we do know is that under the law they should have been handed back to the British forces themselves. That is the law which enshrines our presence there.

“I understand also that the Minister of the Interior, at the highest level, instructed that they should be, that the local judicial authorities said the same,” he said.

The Ministry of Defence said when the soldiers were not released, British forces broke down a perimiter wall at the police station, and found evidence that led them to a house where the two were held captive.

Basra’s governor denounced the incident as a “barbaric” act of aggression.

“A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act,” Governor Mohammed al-Walli told the Associated Press.

An Iraqi interior ministry official told the AFP that the two Britons were involved in an undercover “intelligence-gathering mission”, a claim that has been neither confirmed nor denied by British military officials.

“They were driving a civilian car and were dressed in civilian clothes when a shooting took place between them and Iraqi patrols,” the official reportedly said.

The pair were said to be wearing traditional Arab headdresses and clothing.

Mohammed al-Badi, an official with the Basra governor’s office, said the two men had appeared suspicious to police.

“A policeman approached them and then one of these guys fired at him. Then the police managed to capture them,” Mr Abadi said.

They were reportedly arrested and charged with shooting two Iraqi policemen.

Arab satellite television networks broadcast photos of two Western men, identified only as Britons, seated on the floor of the jail, one with a bandage covering most of the top of his head and the other with blood on his clothes.

The incident has forces tensions between UK troops and Shi’tes in southern Iraq to an all-time low, and followed a chaotic day of rioting in which at least two Iraqis were killed.

The clashes raise questions about how much sovereignty Iraqi authorities have really been granted when the US-led Coalition
Provision Authority handed over power to an interim Iraqi government in the northern summer of 2004.

The soldiers’ arrests sparked violent protests outside the prison after Iraqi demonstrators reacted angrily to the presence of British armoured units.

Petrol bombs, burning furniture and tyres and stones were hurled at the troops.

At one point, a British soldier was seen fleeing from a tank, his body covered in flames.

Two Iraqis were killed in the clashes, an interior ministry official said.

Tensions in the comparatively peaceful, Shi’ite dominated south have been simmering since Sunday, when British forces arrested three members of the Mehdi Army, a militia group loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr.

Among the three was the group’s Basra commander, Sheik Ahmad Majid al-Fartusi.

The Left is going to have a field day with this. I hope the soldier who was burned makes it. The pictures I’ve seen are not encouraging.

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