A rescue by British forces of two officers arrested in the Iraqi city of Basra has damaged relations between the two sides. The jail where UK troops thought the soldiers were being held was reduced to rubble as they used armoured vehicles to burst in.One Iraqi policeman said he was appalled describing how four tanks smashed through, coming close to where a policeman was praying.
The rescue operation began after two British officers were arrested for allegedly killing up to two Iraqi policemen. Britain says it became concerned after negotiations to hand them over did notseem to be work. On breaking into the jail the men were not found.
The two soldiers, possibly operating undercover, were discovered in a nearby house and had apparently been handed over to a Shia milita group. There were angry scenes outside the police station – tensions rose as the crowds hurled fire bombs and rockets at the tanks.
At least two Iraqis were killed and three British officers injured. Compared to the north of Iraq, the British controlled south has been relatively peaceful. Coalition forces defend their actions – for many these events signify a breakdown of trust between the UK military and their police allies. It is feared these events could herald a descent into further violence.