Friday, March 09, 2007

Maliki Stops Cooperating with the British

Prime Minister Maliki Suspends Cooperation With UK Forces as Fallout From Sunday's Basra Raid Continues.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki plans to suspend cooperation with British forces in southern Iraq until the completion of an investigation into the Sunday raid on Basra's police headquarters, according to statements made by Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Safa al-Din Mohammed al-Safi and reported on Alsumeria TV.

Alsumeria also reported that Maliki may file an official complaint with the UN Security Council if the investigation reveals any wrongdoing.

Maliki has called the operation by British and Iraqi forces an "illegal and irresponsible" act and an invasion of Iraq's sovereignty. According to the BBC, the conflict in Basra between the Iraqi government and British forces is part of a larger nationwide pattern. "This is not the first time, even in recent weeks, that British troops have had to carry out such "unlawful and irresponsible acts" - that is go into

The Other Side of the Story:
Raid on Iraq agency finds 30 prisoners

Some appear tortured, raising questions on Shiite leadership

08:28 AM CST on Friday, March 9, 2007

The New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi forces and British troops stormed the offices of an Iraqi government intelligence agency in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, and British officials said they discovered about 30 prisoners, some showing signs of torture.

The raid appeared to catch Iraq's central government by surprise and raised new questions about the rule of law in the Shiite-dominated south, where less than two weeks ago Britain announced plans for a significant reduction in its forces because of improved stability.

News of the Basra raid, with its resonant themes of torture and sectarian-driven conflict, overshadowed the next stage of the intensified security plan in Baghdad, where more than 1,100 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers moved into the Shiite enclave of Sadr City, a stronghold of Iraq's largest Shiite militia. The soldiers met no resistance in what the Americans called the biggest test of the security plan.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who derives major support from Shiite political groups, condemned the raid in Basra. He said nothing about the evidence of torture.

"The prime minister has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident of breaking into the security compound in Basra and stressed the need to punish those who have carried out this illegal and irresponsible act," said the full text of a statement issued late Sunday by his office.

It remained unclear why he sought to aggressively pursue the raiding force rather than the accusations of prisoner abuse. Efforts to reach officials in his office were unsuccessful.

The discovery of prisoners in the Basra offices, which the British described as the headquarters of Iraq's government intelligence agency, echoed other recent cases in which U.S. or British forces stumbled on a government-run detention center that held people showing signs of torture.

As recently as December, a combined force of British and Iraqi troops assaulted a police station in Basra and rescued 127 prisoners from fetid conditions. Some of the prisoners had been tortured.

The most significant case involved a secret Baghdad prison run by the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry, known as Site 4, where more than 1,400 prisoners were discovered in cramped, squalid conditions, and some had been subjected to systematic abuse.

Mr. al-Maliki has been under considerable pressure, particularly from U.S. officials and Sunni Arab leaders, to rid the country's Shiite-run security and intelligence forces of militia influence and human rights abuses. U.S. officials have warned Iraqi leaders that they might curtail aid to the Interior Ministry, which runs the country's police forces, if officials who commit "gross violations of human rights" are not held accountable.

The Interior Ministry, dominated by Shiites, has long been accused by Sunnis of complicity in torture and killings.

The identities of the Basra detainees were unclear, and a spokesman for the British military command in Basra, Maj. David Gell, said he could not provide any further information. Reuters news agency said the detainees included a woman and two children.

The raid in Basra came as the British command is planning a reduction of up to 1,600 of its 7,200 troops, a decision governed by the British government's assessment that Iraqi forces are strong enough to manage the security of the region on their own.

In announcing the reduction Feb. 22, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that while the Basra area remained dangerous, British troops faced far less violence than Americans farther north and that "the next chapter in Basra's history can be written by Iraqis."

It was unclear whether the raid would lead to a re-evaluation of Mr. Blair's assessment. Maj. Gell would not comment on that question in a telephone interview early today. Maj. Gell said the intelligence agency office was raided after an early investigation led to the capture of five suspected bomb- makers and evidence that pointed to possible violations at the agency's offices. "Evidence of significant criminal activity, such as torture, was found," he said.


Elsewhere, the U.S. command said Sunday that one Marine and one sailor were killed Friday while conducting a combat mission in Anbar province. Another Marine was killed on Saturday, also while on a combat mission in Anbar.

U.S. soldiers in Baghdad raided a mosque on Sunday and captured three suspected insurgents hiding inside, according to the U.S. military.

In the western Baghdad neighborhood of al-Jameaa, authorities discovered the bodies of eight Shiite pilgrims who were apparently on their way to a holy city south of the capital to celebrate an Islamic holiday this weekend. The bodies were handcuffed and had bullet holes in their heads, according to an official at Yarmouk Hospital.

In Hillah, a bomb killed four other Shiite pilgrims – three women and a child – on their way to Karbala, one of the southern holy cities. The bomb was apparently targeting an American convoy but missed, according to an official at the Interior Ministry. Two others were wounded in the attack.

Nuri al-Maliki

• Born in the mid-1950s in Hindiya, south of the Shiite holy city of Karbala
• Joined Dawa Party, the main Shiite opposition to Saddam Hussein
• Fled Iraq and changed his first name in 1980 after being sentenced to death for Dawa membership
• Lived in Iran and Syria, where he directed activists inside Iraq
• Returned to Iraq after Saddam Hussein's regime fell, and was elected to parliament in January 2005
• Helped purge Hussein loyalists from the military and government after the war as member of De-Baathification Commission
• Negotiated with Sunnis and Kurds over Iraq's postwar constitution
• Has a son and three daughters

Source: CNN, Associated Press

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