Sunday, August 26, 2007

Conflicting reports as Mahdi militiamen attempt takeover after Britain withdraws from patrol base in Basra

Above: A British Merlin Helicopter arriving at Basra Palace, the only remaining base inside the city. Britain is pulling its forces back to a single base at Basra airport, which has been British HQ since the beginning of the occupation.

UK pulls out of joint headquarters in Iraq's Basra

Britain withdrew its contingent overnight from a joint headquarters it shared with Iraqi police in Basra as part of plans to pull its troops out of Iraq's second city, the British forces said on Sunday.

Britain, which has had control of security in Basra since it joined the United States in invading Iraq in 2003, has begun withdrawing this year and is expected to pull its forces out of their last base inside the town in the next week or two...

"There had been a small presence up to now of British forces in the PJCC (Provincial Joint Coordination Centre) for the support and mentoring of Iraqi police," British forces said in a statement.

"Last night these forces were moved from the PJCC in the framework of the plan for the handover of the Basra Palace to Iraqi control, though British forces currently remain at the palace base," the statement said.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

British move out of Basra police center, Shiite militia moves it

Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army took over the police joint command center in Basra on Sunday after British soldiers withdrew from the facility and handed control to the Iraqi police, witnesses said.

Police left the building when the militiamen, loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, arrived, the witnesses said.

The British military disputed the reports, saying they had been in contact with the Iraqi general in charge of security in Basra, who has said the Mahdi Army was not there.

But the witnesses said the Mahdi Army emptied the building — taking generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty — and remained there in the early evening.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Iraq police block militia as UK troops quit centre

Iraqi police thwarted an attempt by Shi'ite militiamen to occupy a joint command centre in the southern city of Basra from which British troops withdrew overnight, a police spokesman said on Sunday.

Britain, which has been responsible for security in Basra since it joined the United States in invading Iraq in 2003, has begun withdrawing this year and is expected to pull its forces out of their last base inside the city within two weeks.

Basra police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Abdul-Kareem al-Zaidi said militiamen had tried to invade the provisional joint coordination centre (PJCC) that British troops had shared with the Iraqi army, possibly to ransack it.

Read the rest at Reuters

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