Basra Governor seeks 'compensation' for jail raid

The Governor of Basra has withdrawn co-operation with British forces until an apology is made for a raid on a jail and compensation is paid.

Last Monday British forces mounted an operation to free two SAS soldiers who had been detained following a shooting incident in Basra in which one man was allegedly killed and a second wounded.

Brigadier John Lorimier, the officer commanding 12 Mechanised Brigade, said that he had acted after the two had been taken into custody by Shi'ite militia prompting fears over their safety.

British forces moved in on a police station, but confirming that the SAS soldiers were not there, had staged a further operation which had led to the discovery of the two soldiers who were being held captive at a house by militia.

During the operation at the police station, two armoured vehicles came under attack with missiles and petrol bombs. Soldiers from one of the two vehicles set on fire described how they had escaped the burning vehicle. The Ministry of Defence had earlier confirmed that one of the Warrior vehicles had been used to breach a perimeter wall at the police station.

However, Basra Governor Mohammed al-Waili has demanded an apology, compensation and is seeking assurances that such an incident will not happen again. Mr al-Waili said all co-operation with British forces would be stopped until the three demands were met.

Following the incident British troops have not accompanied patrols by Iraqi security forces which were routinely staged in the Basra area.

In a statement made earlier this week, Brigadier Lorimer said that under Iraqi law the two soldiers who were being held by Iraqi police should have been released to coalition authorities. However, despite repeated requests, the men were not handed over. They were later found at a house being held by Shia militia. Brig Lorimer described this situation as "unacceptable" and said that troops had been used to ensure the men's safety.


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