Author Topic: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War  (Read 396 times)

Mo Z. Dizzle

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Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« on: February 22, 2006, 07:24:27 PM »


By ZIAD KHALAF, Associated Press Writer 2 minutes ago

SAMARRA, Iraq - Insurgents posing as police destroyed the golden dome of one of
Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, setting off an unprecendented spasm of sectarian violence. Angry crowds thronged the streets, militiamen attacked Sunni mosques, and at least 19 people were killed.

With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, some Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.

The violence — many of the 90 attacks on Sunni mosques were carried out by Shiite militias — seemed to push Iraq closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of
Saddam Hussein.

Many leaders called for calm. "We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity," said President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. "We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."

President Bush pledged American help to restore the mosque after the bombing north of Baghdad, which dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to keep Iraq from falling deeper into sectarian violence.

"The terrorists in Iraq have again proven that they are enemies of all faiths and of all humanity," Bush said. "The world must stand united against them, and steadfast behind the people of Iraq."

British Prime Minister
Tony Blair also condemned the bombing and pledged funds toward the shrine's reconstruction.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, called the attack a deliberate attempt to foment sectarian strife and warned it was a "critical moment for Iraq."

No one was reported injured in the bombing of the shrine in Samarra.

But at least 19 people, including three Sunni clerics, were killed in the reprisal attacks that followed, mainly in Baghdad and predominantly Shiite provinces to the south, according to the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's largest Sunni political group.

Many of the attacks appeared to have been carried out by Shiite militias that the United States wants to see disbanded.

In predominantly Shiite Basra, police said militiamen broke into a prison, hauled out 12 inmates, including two Egyptians, two Tunisians, a Libyan, a Saudi and a Turk, and shot them dead in reprisal for the shrine attack.

Major Sunni groups joined in condemning the attack, and a leading Sunni politician, Tariq al-Hashimi, urged clerics and politicians to calm the situation "before it spins out of control."

The country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sent instructions to his followers forbidding attacks on Sunni mosques, and called for seven days of mourning.

But he hinted, as did Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, that religious militias could be given a bigger security role if the government cannot protecting holy shrines — an ominous sign of the Shiite reaction ahead.

Both Sunnis and the United States fear the rise of such militias, which the disaffected minority views as little more than death squads. American commanders believe they undercut efforts to create a professional Iraqi army and police force — a key step toward the eventual drawdown of U.S. forces.

Some Shiite political leaders already were angry with the United States because it has urged them to form a government in which nonsectarian figures control the army and police. Khalilzad warned this week — in a statement clearly aimed at Shiite hard-liners — that America would not continue to support institutions run by sectarian groups with links to armed militias.

One top Shiite political leader accused Khalilzad of sharing blame for the attack on the shrine in Samarra.

"These statements ... gave green lights to terrorist groups. And, therefore, he shares in part of the responsibility," said Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the former commander of its militia.

The interior minister, who controls the security forces that Sunnis accuse of widepsread abuses, is a member of al-Hakim's party.

The new tensions came as Iraq's various factions have been struggling to assemble a government after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

The Shiite fury sparked by Wednesday's bombings — the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days — raised the likelihood that Shiite religious parties will reject U.S. demands to curb militias.

The Askariya shrine, also known as the Golden Mosque, contains the tombs of two revered Shiite imams, who are considered by Shiites to be among the successors of the Prophet Muhammad.

No group claimed responsibility for the 6:55 a.m. assault on the shrine in Samarra, a mostly Sunni Arab city 60 miles north of Baghdad, carried out by four insurgents disguised as police. But suspicion fell on Sunni extremist groups.

The top of the dome, which was completed in 1905, collapsed into a crumbly mess, leaving just traces of gold showing through the rubble. Part of the shrine's tiled northern wall also was damaged.

Thousands of demonstrators crowded near the wrecked shrine, and Iraqis picked through the debris, pulling out artifacts and copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, which they waved, along with Iraqi flags.

"This criminal act aims at igniting civil strife," said Mahmoud al-Samarie, a 28-year-old builder. "We demand an investigation so that the criminals who did this be punished. If the government fails to do so, then we will take up arms and chase the people behind this attack."

U.S. and Iraqi forces surrounded the Samarra shrine and searched nearby houses. About 500 soldiers were sent to Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad to prevent clashes.

On Al-Jazeera television, Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi pledged that the violence would not discourage Sunnis from working to form a new government and claimed the Samarra attack was not planned by Sunni insurgents but "a foreign hand aiming to create differences among Iraqis."

National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said 10 people were detained for questioning about the bombing. The Interior Ministry put the number at nine and said they included five guards.

In the hours after the attack, more than 90 Sunni mosques were attacked with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, burned or taken over by Shiites, the Iraqi Islamic Party said.

Large protests erupted in Shiite parts of Baghdad and in cities throughout the Shiite heartland to the south. In Basra, Shiite militants traded rifle and rocket-propelled grenade fire with guards at the office of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Smoke billowed from the building.

Shiite protesters later set fire to a Sunni shrine containing the seventh century tomb of Talha bin Obeid-Allah, a companion of Muhammad, on the outskirts of Basra.

Protesters in Najaf, Kut and Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City also marched through the streets by the thousands, many shouting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans and burning those nations' flags.

Tradition says the Askariya shrine, which draws Shiite pilgrims from throughout the Islamic world, is near the place where the last of the 12 Shiite imams, Mohammed al-Mahdi, disappeared. Al-Mahdi was the son and grandson of the two imams buried in the Askariya shrine. Shiites believe he is still alive and will return to restore justice to humanity.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/iraq;_ylt=Ah5ALOU8fXZKYfF2tT9JWYOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ--

disgusting, very very disgusting
no wonder everybody is able to keep taking shots at Islam, we cant even get along within ourselves
i dont get how anybody can do such a thing, bombing such a holy site for the Shias like that
and then to make matters worse, sum Shias shoot up 90 Sunni mosques
      
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Mo Z. Dizzle

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2006, 07:27:54 PM »





pictures of the shrine that was bombed
      
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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2006, 03:22:12 AM »
"Divide & Conquer"
my throat hurts, its hard to swallow, and my body feels like i got a serious ass beating.

LOL @ this fudgepacker
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2006, 03:25:41 AM »
not cool
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2006, 06:19:27 AM »
"Divide & Conquer"
i really don't think the US of its allies were behind this, it just makes their whole situation worse when they're trying to get out.... i think it will be very hard for iraq to move on from this

iraq would just get annexed by iran


That would be a great solution.  If Iran and the majority of Iraqi's are pleased with it, then why shouldn't they do it?
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2006, 03:44:54 PM »
further proves that the whole war in iraq was a failure to this point. way to 'libirate' the people by creating a situation that leads to a civil war. i guess some people dont understand that the transition from a dictatorship to a democracy isnt always very smooth, especially when u are trying to form a religious government.
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2006, 04:03:26 PM »
"Divide & Conquer"

Yeah, the US really wants a Civil War and the anarchy that would ensure in Iraq.

You are a fucking idiot.
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2006, 04:49:58 PM »
i really don't think the US of its allies were behind this, it just makes their whole situation worse when they're trying to get out.... i think it will be very hard for iraq to move on from this

LOL at you saying "when they're trying to get out."  LOL... nobody is trying to get out, America is biulding permanent military installations in Iraq as we speak.  You could be a smart guy, but you really need to learn to read between the lines and see the big picture.  The Neo-con American regime has no interest in "getting out".  That is just polotics.  The grand scheme in Iraq is for them to have a permanent foothold in the region, which is exactly why the US government infact wants, and is creating a civil war in Iraq to justify their occupation in the region.

You just said it yourself.  You said that a civil war would make it harder for the occupation forces to live Iraq. This is exactly the idea.   It serves omnibus purposes.  A civil war will also lead Iraqi people to shoot at eachother and take the X's off the backs of US soldiers.  It's the oldest trick in the book, divide and conquer.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2006, 04:52:35 PM by Allah's Slave: Abdul-Infinite »
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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2006, 04:52:25 PM »
how easy is it to plant some bombs? no self respecting sunni would do something like this
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don't know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

- Lewis Carroll
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2006, 05:35:03 PM »
i really don't think the US of its allies were behind this, it just makes their whole situation worse when they're trying to get out.... i think it will be very hard for iraq to move on from this

LOL at you saying "when they're trying to get out."  LOL... nobody is trying to get out, America is biulding permanent military installations in Iraq as we speak.  You could be a smart guy, but you really need to learn to read between the lines and see the big picture.  The Neo-con American regime has no interest in "getting out".  That is just polotics.  The grand scheme in Iraq is for them to have a permanent foothold in the region, which is exactly why the US government infact wants, and is creating a civil war in Iraq to justify their occupation in the region.

You just said it yourself.  You said that a civil war would make it harder for the occupation forces to live Iraq. This is exactly the idea.   It serves omnibus purposes.  A civil war will also lead Iraqi people to shoot at eachother and take the X's off the backs of US soldiers.  It's the oldest trick in the book, divide and conquer.

and what makes u think they'll be staying there after the next presidential elections?
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2006, 05:48:15 PM »
i really don't think the US of its allies were behind this, it just makes their whole situation worse when they're trying to get out.... i think it will be very hard for iraq to move on from this

LOL at you saying "when they're trying to get out."  LOL... nobody is trying to get out, America is biulding permanent military installations in Iraq as we speak.  You could be a smart guy, but you really need to learn to read between the lines and see the big picture.  The Neo-con American regime has no interest in "getting out".  That is just polotics.  The grand scheme in Iraq is for them to have a permanent foothold in the region, which is exactly why the US government infact wants, and is creating a civil war in Iraq to justify their occupation in the region.

You just said it yourself.  You said that a civil war would make it harder for the occupation forces to live Iraq. This is exactly the idea.   It serves omnibus purposes.  A civil war will also lead Iraqi people to shoot at eachother and take the X's off the backs of US soldiers.  It's the oldest trick in the book, divide and conquer.
they may want stategic bases there but i garentee you they don't want 140k troops there perminatly, if this is all about oil then the instability is counter productive, Iraq is producing way less than it did under sadam even when were sanctions in place, i always thought the idea was to bring more oil supply into the markets to bring the price down....and the US already has bases in the region in fact there are few countries in which they don't have bases!

iraq would just get annexed by iran


That would be a great solution.  If Iran and the majority of Iraqi's are pleased with it, then why shouldn't they do it?
 

Mo Z. Dizzle

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2006, 05:49:01 PM »
i really don't think the US of its allies were behind this, it just makes their whole situation worse when they're trying to get out.... i think it will be very hard for iraq to move on from this

LOL at you saying "when they're trying to get out."  LOL... nobody is trying to get out, America is biulding permanent military installations in Iraq as we speak.  You could be a smart guy, but you really need to learn to read between the lines and see the big picture.  The Neo-con American regime has no interest in "getting out".  That is just polotics.  The grand scheme in Iraq is for them to have a permanent foothold in the region, which is exactly why the US government infact wants, and is creating a civil war in Iraq to justify their occupation in the region.

You just said it yourself.  You said that a civil war would make it harder for the occupation forces to live Iraq. This is exactly the idea.   It serves omnibus purposes.  A civil war will also lead Iraqi people to shoot at eachother and take the X's off the backs of US soldiers.  It's the oldest trick in the book, divide and conquer.

and what makes u think they'll be staying there after the next presidential elections?

i think he meant the troops mite note be there but the US will have a huge influence on the Iraqi government
      
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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2006, 05:57:17 PM »

they may want stategic bases there but i garentee you they don't want 140k troops there perminatly, if this is all about oil then the instability is counter productive, Iraq is producing way less than it did under sadam even when were sanctions in place, i always thought the idea was to bring more oil supply into the markets to bring the price down....and the US already has bases in the region in fact there are few countries in which they don't have bases!


As you hinted towards, America has bases and military operations in 100 countries around the world.  But Iraq is more than just another base.  Like I said, they want a permanent foothold in the region, and when I say region I mean the greater middle east.  Because they are planning on expanding their influence in the middle east and they want Iraq to be their headquarters in the greater middle east.  So this is not just another military base or military operation for the United States, this is part of a grand plan; so expect the occupation to rage on.

As for instability causing a dip in oil revenue, maybe, maybe not.  Maybe on the books, when Iraqi oil ministers look at their revenue's the profits appear to be down, but the US government is getting what they want, openly or in secret, they are getting what they want. 

...If you don't believe what I'm telling you then time will tell, it has already told the story, but some people never learn.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2006, 05:59:20 PM by Allah's Slave: Abdul-Infinite »
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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2006, 06:38:33 PM »
"Divide & Conquer"

Yeah, the US really wants a Civil War and the anarchy that would ensure in Iraq.

You are a fucking idiot.

Listen up you small dick Polack... you don't know jackshit except what Bill O'Reilly tells your faggot ass to think... you can bring down your dad's Polish flag and put up an American one but you'll still be nothing but a worthless piece of shit Polack who jacks off to white guys in porn.

Anyways... check up on what the British did in the past.. aka their colonial policy, including in Iraq... then read the RAND Corporation report in its entirety... you fucking tool
my throat hurts, its hard to swallow, and my body feels like i got a serious ass beating.

LOL @ this fudgepacker
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2006, 05:53:17 AM »
"Divide & Conquer"

Yeah, the US really wants a Civil War and the anarchy that would ensure in Iraq.

You are a fucking idiot.

Listen up you small dick Polack... you don't know jackshit except what Bill O'Reilly tells your faggot ass to think... you can bring down your dad's Polish flag and put up an American one but you'll still be nothing but a worthless piece of shit Polack who jacks off to white guys in porn.

Anyways... check up on what the British did in the past.. aka their colonial policy, including in Iraq... then read the RAND Corporation report in its entirety... you fucking tool

lmao, i agree with that
« Last Edit: February 24, 2006, 05:54:56 AM by Bad Boy Killer »
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2006, 11:37:10 AM »
This is the work of Wahabis, salafi movements, and bitch ass Ba'ath regime......fuck wahabis
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2006, 12:04:04 PM »

Here is one suspect for you Israel, now we obviously cant say it was them categoricall,y but of course they gain from an unstable iraq. If the people are at each others throats then they are too preoccupied, to be a threat to you. So of course a civil war is in their interests, divide and conquer like JML said.
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2006, 12:16:50 PM »
Quote
The head of Israel's domestic security agency, Shin Bet, has said his country may come to regret the overthrow of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Yuval Diskin said a strong dictatorship would be preferable to the present "chaos" in Iraq, in a speech to teenage Jewish settlers in the West Bank. He also said the Israeli security services and judiciary treated Arabs and Jewish suspects differently.

A Shin Bet veteran, Mr Diskin took over as Shin Bet's chief in May.


 When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos. I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam
Yuval Diskin 

His speech to the students at the Eli settlement as they prepared for military service was secretly recorded and broadcast on Israeli TV.

When asked about the growing destabilisation of Iraq, Mr Diskin said Israel might come to rue its decision to support the US-led invasion in 2003.

"When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos," he said.

"I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam."

iraq would just get annexed by iran


That would be a great solution.  If Iran and the majority of Iraqi's are pleased with it, then why shouldn't they do it?
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2006, 12:49:28 PM »

yes i know and have read that before but that smacks of bs, as the saying goes you create order out of chaos and a company tearing each others throats apart is going to be distracted to focus on anyone else. If you destroy unity you break a countrys spirit.
 

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Re: Mosque Attack Pushes Iraq Toward Civil War
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2006, 01:07:12 PM »

Furthermore do you conveniently forget this appearing in the news.....

    
   Agent Provocateurs?
UK Soldiers Dressed as Iraqis Killing Local Police

Infowars.com | September 20, 2005

We have received now several news tips and links to stories (below) about this breaking news item. According to various sources, several British soldiers were involved in the jailbreak of two other uk soldiers arrested by Iraqi police who were wearing Arab clothing and allegedly fired on police at a checkpoint.

"A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act," al-Waili said, adding that the British force had spirited the prisoners away to an unknown location.
   
RELATED:

British vehicles crash into Basra jail

Bloody confrontation in Basra

Iran blamed for Basra violence

British Attack Basra Jail to Free Two

Iraqi police detain two British soldiers in Basra

The British government is already downplaying this as a "negotiated release" and the media is helping them as usual, calling it a "rescue". The above article is one of the few that is providing more of the details and quoting Iraqi sources. (from this article)

Despite the Brits' spin on the jailbreak, this whole incident certainly lends credibility to the idea that many of the so-called insurgent attacks and bombings are little more than "coalition" orchestrations designed to perpetuate chaos in the country to precipitate continued involvment in Iraq by the US military.

UK Soldiers Caught Dressed As Iraqis Killing Local Police

David Cohen | September 20, 2005

Jeff - The BBC reported somthing VERY vague about an attack on the Basra jail but it caught my attention, so I switched to the Australian TV channels to find more info:

The reports stated two British commando special forces dressed as Iraqis have been cought by the Iraqis after they were found shooting and killing local policemen. And the Iraqis put them in jail.

The British army then, came with tanks, destroyed the jail and freed the two british commandos. In the process, all the Iraqi prisoners in the jail ran away to freedom.

Riots started, and I saw British tanks engulfed with molotov coktails and British soldiers runing out of thier tanks, some were on fire.

This report give crediblity to the 'conspiracy theorists' who have long claimed many terrorist acts in Iraq are, in fact, being initiated and carried out by US, British and Israeli forces.

The TRUTH is the British had to either rescue or kill these two commandos in order to keep these operations secret. Fortunately for the two Brits, they were saved.

The British Commander of the forces involved gave such idiotic excuses I won't even bother to report them to you. The followng just moved on the net...


Iraqi Prison Stormed By British Tanks And Helicopters

British forces in tanks and helicopters stormed an Iraqi jail tonight to rescue two service personnel who were arrested after allegedly shooting dead a local policeman and wounding another, the governor of Basra said.

The two men had been taken to the Basra jail after violence erupted earlier today in the southern Iraqi city.

Photographs of the two - thought to be special forces officers - were taken and released to the media, showing them bandaged and bloody.

British troops had arrived at the police station where the two men were being held and encircled the building.

They were attacked by demonstrators with rocks and petrol bombs.

One soldier was seen engulfed by flames tumbling from his tank and gunfire was exchanged between the two sides, leaving three soldiers injured and two civilians dead.

Later, more than 10 tanks and helicopters broke down the walls of the jail in the rescue operation to release the two arrested servicemen.

It was also reported that 150 Iraqi prisoners escaped in what Mohammed al-Waili, the governor of Basra, described as a 'barbaric, savage and irresponsible' act.

The MoD refused to comment after officials said that the two men were undercover officers dressed as Arabs.

The spokesman said: "We can confirm that the two military personnel have been released."

Mr al-Waili said: "A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act."

He said the British force had spirited the prisoners away to an unknown location.

British Attack Basra Jail to Free Two

Associated Press | September 19, 2005
By ABBAS FAYADH

BASRA, Iraq (AP) - British forces using tanks broke down the walls of the central jail in the southern city of Basra late Monday and freed two Britons, allegedly undercover commandos, who had been arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi policemen.

Witnesses said about 150 Iraqi prisoners also fled the jail.

Violence flared earlier in the day as demonstrators hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at British tanks; at least four people were killed.

The fighting erupted after British armor encircled the jail where the two Britons were being held. During the melee one soldier could be seen scrambling for his life from a burning tank and the rock-throwing mob.

Iraqi police detain two British soldiers in Basra

Xinhuanet | September 19, 2005

Iraqi police detained two British soldiers in civilian clothes in the southern city Basra for firing on a police station on Monday, police said.

"Two persons wearing Arab uniforms opened fire at a police station in Basra. A police patrol followed the attackers and captured them to discover they were two British soldiers," an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua.

The two soldiers were using a civilian car packed with explosives, the source said.

He added that the two were being interrogated in the police headquarters of Basra.

The British forces informed the Iraqi authorities that the two soldiers were performing an official duty, the source said. British military authorities said they could not confirm the incident but investigations were underway.

British vehicles crash into Basra jail
The Age | September 19, 2005

Tensions between British forces and Shi'ites in southern Iraq are at a dangerous and chaotic low after British armoured forces smashed down a jail wall and freed two British undercover soldiers who had been arrested by Iraqi police.

Iraqi authorities in the southern oil city of Basra claimed that British armoured vehicles demolished part of its main jail and snatched the two men - thought to be commandos in Arab clothing who allegedly fired on Iraqi police officers.

Britain's Defence Ministry, though, said the two men were released as a result of negotiations. But it stopped short of denying that the jail had been raided.

Whatever the truth, the incident was part of a chaotic day of rioting, in which at least two Iraqis were killed.

The clashes raise questions about how much sovereignty Iraqi authorities have really been granted when the US-led Coalition Provision Authority handed over power to an interim Iraqi government in the northern summer of 2004.

It's not clear what effect it might have on the work of Australian troops protecting Japanese forces in the city of Samawah, north-west of Basra.

Outside Basra jail, a melee broke out in the streets as angry demonstrators attacked the encircling British armour with stones and Molotov cocktails.

During the chaos, one British soldier could be seen scrambling for his life from a burning Warrior armoured personnel carrier and the rock-throwing mob.

Press Association, the British news agency, reported that three British soldiers were hurt during the violence, but said none of their injuries was life-threatening.

After nightfall, 10 British armoured vehicles returned to the jail, crashed through walls and freed the two captives, witnesses said. An Associated Press reporter saw the vehicles smash into the jail.

While witnesses and officials said the British raid used "tanks," it was not clear whether the tracked vehicles were Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks or Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles, both in use by British forces in Iraq.

The arrests of the two British soldiers appeared to have been the first real and public test of how far that sovereignty extends.

There have been no known incidents of Iraqi authorities arresting US soldiers operating in the Iraqi heartland.

Mohammed al-Waili, the governor of Basra province, condemned the British for raiding the prison, an act he called "barbaric, savage and irresponsible".

"A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act," al-Waili said, adding that the British force had spirited the prisoners away to an unknown location.

Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi television cameraman who lives across the street from the Basra jail, said about 150 Iraqi prisoners fled as British commandos stormed inside and rescued their comrades.

While the Shi'ite-dominated south of Iraq, where 8,500 British troops are based, has been far quieter than US-patrolled Sunni regions to the north, Britons have come under increasingly frequent attacks in recent weeks.

The British military has reported 96 deaths since the war began in 2003.

That compares with the deaths of 1,899 Americans elsewhere.

Basra authorities reported arresting the two Britons, described as special forces commandos dressed in Arab clothing, for allegedly shooting two Iraqi policemen, one of whom died.

British armour then encircled the jail where the two Britons were held.

Television cameramen from Arab satellite broadcasters in the Persian Gulf were allowed to photograph the two men, who appeared to be Westerners and who were by that time sitting on the floor in the jail in blue jeans and T-shirts, their hands tied behind their backs.

One of the men had a bandage covering most of the top of his head, the other had blood on his clothes. Television commentary identified them only as

ANOTHER STAGED ATTACK