Two British soldiers, who were arrested by Iraqi police in Basra, are now back in UK hands.
They were detained after allegedly opening fire on Iraqi officers, sparking scenes of violence outside the city jail.
Crowds of angry Iraqis hurled petrol bombs and stones at two UK tanks that had been sent to the prison where the men were being questioned.
But with contradictory official versions of what happened, it is not clear how they were freed.
The soldiers were reportedly undercover in civilian clothes, including traditional Arab headscarves, in an unmarked car when Iraqi security forces approached them.
According to an Iraqi interior ministry official, several British tanks stormed the prison and freed the pair. The governor of Basra described it as a “barbaric act of aggression.”
But Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the release of the two men had been negotiated although officials have acknowledged a wall was demolished as UK forces tried to collect the men.
Tensions have been running high in the southern city since the arrest of a senior figure in the Shia Mehdi Army by British troops.