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Two britons detained for firing at police

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Two Britons detained in Iraq for firing at police

19 September 2005

BASRA, Iraq - Violence erupted in Basra on Monday after Iraqi authorities said they had detained two British undercover soldiers in the southern city for firing on Iraqi police.

Witnesses said an angry crowd tried to set a British tank ablaze and attacked a soldier with stones after two Britons dressed in civilian clothes were seized.

An Iraqi official said the British military had informed him that the two men were undercover soldiers and that an Iraqi judge was questioning them.

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

“We are investigating and an Iraqi judge is on the case questioning them.”

Reuters photographs showed one of the two men with a bandage on his head.

Mohammed Al Abadi, an official at the Basra governorate, said the two men looked suspicious to the police.

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

“They refused to say what their mission was. They said they were British soldiers and (suggested) to ask their commander about their mission,” he added.

Witnesses said violence broke out in Basra after the arrest, with a crowd of Iraqis trying to set a British tank on fire.

Reuters television footage showed the tank trying to reverse away from trouble after it came under attack, apparently from petrol bombs as a crowd gathered around it.

Within moments flames emerged from the top of the tank, although it was not clear if the vehicle itself was on fire or if the flames came from materials burning on top of the tank.

One soldier climbed out of the tank’s hatch and jumped clear of it, as the crowd pelted him with stones.

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