Monday, September 19, 2005

Two Tommies Bagged in Basrah And One Overblown Observation

According to this news item, two British soldiers were detained by Basrah police after getting into a shootout with the police.

An Iraqi official in Iraq's second largest city said the British military had informed him that the 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. Police and Interior Ministry officials said the men were wearing traditional Arab headdress for their undercover mission.[snip]

Mohammed al-Abadi, an official in the Basra governorate, said the two men looked suspicious to 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.

I'll guess what their mission was and I'll guess why they weren't too keen on telling anyone after they were arrested. Recall that Basrah is now the home base for the Iranian backed Shi'ites and Sadr's own theocratic thugs that pretty much run their own little crime syndicate in town, cheating on contracts, killing anyone they think is threatening to their survival (Steven Vincent comes to mind) and intimidating or killing anyone that does not adhere to their hypocritical concept of morality including just recently four women for singing at a wedding.

I imagine that the Iranian and Sadr connections are the most interesting to the Brits considering the number of arms being smuggled into the country via smuggler routes in eastern Iraq.

Why they were shot at, I can only imagine. Could be a simple check point that the soldiers wanted to avoid or it could be that, just like Steven Vincent's killers, the men were police officers who were involved in something nasty and were only prevented from killing these men because they were armed or because one of the rogue police elements in Basrah had a leader that felt compelled to insure their dirty little empire was not completely exposed or put into danger by overtly killing British soldiers. Much better to detain them and embarass the British officers in charge, giving the thieves and strongmen some leverage.

If I was the Brits, I'd be "investigating" if the soldiers' cover was blown by someone inside their Joint Operations.

While reading the story from AP, I noted this rather overblown observation:

Basra, capital of the Shi'ite south, has been relatively stable compared with central Iraq, where Sunni Arab insurgents have killed thousands of Iraqi and U.S. forces, officials and civilians with suicide attacks, roadside bombs and shootings.

Maybe I'm just being picky, but I would have put that as "thousands of Iraqi civilians, police and military" and for once, I wouldn't have minded the most current body count for the US. It just seems by that comment they were overstating the US casualties and understating the "relative stability" of Basrah.

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