Military Police killed after weapons searches sparked protests

The six military police killed on Tuesday in Iraq had been involved in house-to-house searches for illegally held weapons in the town where they were stationed, amid protests by the local Muslim communities about some of the measures employed by British forces.

Although it was confirmed by an army spokesperson that on the day of the killings there were no searches conducted in the town of Majar al-Kabir, it is understood that the searches on preceding days involved the use of sniffer dogs, a tactic that would have outraged the local Shia Muslim townspeople who consider the animals unclean.

Other reported grievances from the local area include soldiers rifling through private possessions in the homes of the local populace. Soldiers entering private dwellings may also have seen unveiled Muslim women - causing further outrage as this also is against both religious belief and local custom.

However, a military spokesperson in Iraq denied that the tactics used during the conduct of the searches had been “heavy handed”.

The police station, which the RMPs had been using as a training base for local police officers, bore evidence of a heavy firefight in and around the building. One of the local police officers said that he had been told to save himself as the military police stood their ground.

It is reported that following a gun battle, the six soldiers were removed from the building before they were apparently shot in the head.

Yesterday the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the bodies of six members of the Royal Military Police patrol had been recovered from the town, but no further details were made available as the MoD has initiated an inquiry into the incident.

Yesterday, the commanding officer of 156 Provost Company of the Royal Military Police, Major Bryn Parry-Jones, praised the dead soldiers, and said: “Their deaths in action underlines the challenging and difficult operations that the RMP are asked to undertake both in peace and times of conflict.”

The events in Majar al-Kabir mark the worst of a growing number of attacks on coalition forces in Iraq. The first British fatalities of the war since April, the killings in Majar al-Kabir brings the number of British troops killed since the start of the conflict to 43.


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