British soldiers in Basra, southern Iraq, launched a major operation on Christmas morning against a police station in the city. The army had reports the Serious Crime Unit was about to execute a number of prisoners. The armoured column was fired on as it approached the building. Seven Iraqis were killed; Many weapons were seized, and nearly 130 prisoners were transferred to other cells.
The British, who reported no casualties, claim the SCU was heavily infiltrated by anti-government forces, and that it was a centre for “criminal enterprise” in southern Basra. What was one of the biggest police stations in the city was demolished by troops in a massive explosion. Around 1,000 troops were used in the operation; Many of the prisoners freed were injured or showed signs of torture.
The British say the raid was in full co-operation with the Iraqi authorities, a claim denied by Basra’s Security chief. He said: “It’s regrettable the multi-national forces have resorted to massive deployments like this. It’s unneccesary to burst into a building where there are prisoners and reduce it to rubble.”
The Iraqi government and allied forces have not had as much success in forging loyalty in the police as in the army. There are fears it may be seriously compromised, infiltrated by as much as 80 percent.