09/04/2003

British forces begin law and order role in Basra

British troops are gearing up to take on a different type of role in Basra as fighting ends and looting spreads across the city.

Coalition forces are to seek a non-military solution in the region by holding a regional conference aimed at restoring political leadership southern region of Iraq.

British forces have recently become more involved in efforts to reduce the looting of Basra, which appeared to initially centre on the dismantling of former Ba’ath party and regime infrastructure and buildings.

A military spokesman confirmed that British troops had moved in to foil an attempted bank raid.

Group Captain Al Lockwood said that under international law an “occupying force” had an obligation to help ensure that there was law and order in the region.

He said that although a lot of local police had disappeared the British contingent in Basra were making every effort to enlist the remnants of the city’s police force to assist them to restore law and order and protect people’s lives and property.

It is reported that a Shia cleric has come forward and is prepared to lead a representative committee of groups in the Basra area.

However scenes in Basra remain chaotic. There is a water shortage and looters are disrupting efforts to supply humanitarian aid to the city’s population.

Reports from Basra indicate that officers on the ground remain concerned that the last elements of resistance may not be completely suppressed and that they cannot be expected to act as a police force and arrest all looters.

(SP)

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