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Iraqi police protest after british raid { August 2005 }

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Iraqi police protest after British raid

Sep. 21, 2005 - Iraqi police staged an angry anti-British protest in Basra on Wednesday as London and Baghdad sought to quell tension over a British raid to free soldiers held by militiamen in the southern city.

About 200 policemen who work at the police station damaged during the British raid marched through the streets, calling for the city police chief to be fired and for the "British terrorists" to be returned to Iraqi jurisdiction.

The Iraqi government said in a statement there was no crisis with Britain, but senior Iraqi officials have castigated the raid, with Basra province governor calling it a "barbaric act."

"Both governments are in close contact, and an inquiry will be conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior into the incident," a statement from Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's office said. It also urged calm on all sides.

Jaafari, returning from New York, was due to meet British Defense Secretary John Reid in London at around 1300 GMT (0900 EDT).

Reid, under pressure at home over the deployment of 8,500 troops in Iraq and facing calls for a withdrawal timetable, told a British newspaper Britain would not "cut and run."

The diplomatic hitch follows a raid by British forces to free two undercover soldiers who were detained by Iraqi security forces in Basra following a firefight on Monday.

In the raid, British armored vehicles crushed the walls of an Iraqi jail before troops rescued the men from a militia group said by the British to have gained custody of them from police.

But Iraq's interior minister disputed the British military's account. Bayan Jabor told the BBC the men had never left police custody or the jail in Basra and were not handed to militants.

Basra, a mainly Shi'ite Muslim city, has experienced a surge in militia activity over the past nine months, with armed Shi'ite factions vying for influence in the security forces and the local council.

The militias are also believed to have carried out attacks on British troops, three of whom have been killed by roadside bombs this month, and on journalists exposing their activities.

Iraqi authorities admitted that insurgents had infiltrated the police and other security forces in Basra and elsewhere.

"Our Iraqi security forces in general, and these in particular and in many parts of Iraq, I have to admit that they have been penetrated by some of the insurgents," National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told the BBC on Tuesday.

He said he did not know the extent of the infiltration, but said new procedures were in place to get rid of bad apples.


British commander Colonel Bill Dunham, chief of staff for multinational forces in Basra, also pointed to security force infiltration as a major problem. "It is something that affects the Iraqi police across Iraq as a whole," he told BBC Radio.

"We are aware of rogue elements in the Iraqi police service. The trick that we have to pull off now with the Iraqi authorities is to identify those elements, to weed them out and to reinforce the good parts of the Iraqi police service."

Britain has spent the past 2-1/2 years securing Basra and building up its security forces in the expectation that Iraqi forces could take over and allow British troops to withdraw.

The acknowledgement that more than two years' work has essentially failed to produce a functioning police force is likely to provoke anger among Iraqis, whose chief concern has always been security and who want foreign troops to leave.


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 three leading members of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.

In Baghdad on Wednesday, U.S. and Iraqi forces traded fire for several hours with insurgents hiding out in a house in the west of the city, before capturing one insurgent, police said. Five rebels, two police and a soldier were killed, they said.

West of the capital and to the north, where a Sunni Arab-led insurgency is fiercest, nine Americans, including five troops, were killed in separate attacks on Monday and Tuesday.

The deaths raised to at least 1,907 the number of U.S. troops to have died in Iraq since the war began.

(Additional reporting by Paul Majendie in London)

Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

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