Basra Protesters Condemn British

A policeman stands guard at a suspected insurgent hideout in Baghdad following a firefight involving Iraqi forces.
A policeman stands guard at a suspected insurgent hideout in Baghdad following a firefight involving Iraqi forces. (By Khalid Mohammed -- Associated Press)
By Bassam Sebti
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, September 22, 2005

BAGHDAD, Sept. 21 -- Hundreds of residents and police officers filled the streets in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday, shouting and pumping their fists to condemn British forces for raiding a jail and freeing two of their commandos two days earlier.

Iraqi police had arrested the Britons on Monday for allegedly shooting at police and planting explosive devices. British troops then broke the men out of jail by ramming an armored vehicle through a wall. In response, Basra residents and police revolted, attacking British forces in the area.

Five civilians were killed in the clash, including two who died Wednesday of their injuries, according to hospital authorities.

The angry demonstrators carried banners, shouted "No to occupation!" and demanded that the freed British soldiers be tried in an Iraqi court as terrorists, the Associated Press reported.

Some of the protesters met with the police chief demanding "a British apology," the Associated Press reported, quoting a police spokesman, Col. Karim Zaidi.

Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr did not return three telephone calls requesting comment. He told an Iraqi TV channel that his ministry was investigating.

"We have decided to form a supreme investigative committee in which some members of the Basra provincial council will join," Jabr said. "The results will be presented to the government, council of ministers, the parliament and the people."

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces stormed a house in central Baghdad on Wednesday, freeing a hostage and killing five suspected insurgents. Iraqi security officers said the men had used the house as a haven and a hideout to stock weapons.

"There is a group of terrorists hiding inside the house with explosives, RPGs and hand grenades," an Iraqi army officer told al-Iraqiya, a state-owned TV channel. As he spoke, three Iraqi soldiers fired on the house while five others rushed through the main gate, pushing tree branches away from their faces.

U.S. troops stayed on the sideline of the assault, supporting the Iraqi forces but not participating directly. American military officials have said they are trying to rely more on Iraqi troops to maintain security.

It was not immediately clear with whom the suspected insurgents were connected, but they had a significant amount of weapons, Iraqi officials said. The officials and witnesses in the neighborhood had no information about the hostage or how he had been abducted.

In Yusufiyah, 15 miles southwest of Baghdad, three bodies were found riddled with bullets, a police spokesman said.

And in the northern city of Mosul, gunmen killed Ahlam Youssef, an engineer for al-Iraqiya, and her husband, a manager at the station's Baghdad headquarters told the Associated Press. On Tuesday, Firas Maadidi, an Iraqi journalist working for a Baghdad newspaper, al-Safeer, was shot dead while leaving an Internet cafe. Another correspondent for the paper was killed in Mosul over the weekend. About 70 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion 2 1/2 years ago.

Staff writer Jackie Spinner in Baghdad and special correspondent Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.

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