They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Basra jailbreak: '150 Salafists released onto streets'

guardian: Continued anger on the streets of Basra as marchers denounce 'British aggression'

Hundreds of policemen and civilians marched in Basra yesterday denouncing "British aggression" in the raid to free the two undercover soldiers arrested by Iraqi police on Monday.

The protesters, some carrying handguns and AK-47s, chanted "No to occupation" and waved banners calling for the two men be tried as terrorists. Soldiers and armed police watched the march but did not intervene.

Senior aides to Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi militia were at the heart of Monday's events, hit back at what they said were "distortions and nonsense" designed to discredit the firebrand cleric. "What is all this talk of infiltration of the police and destabilisation of Basra by supporters of Moqtada?" asked Abbas al-Rubaei, a spokesman for Mr Sadr in Sadr city in eastern Baghdad.

"The real problem of stability in Basra was the fact that British forces attacked a police station and in doing so released 150 Salafists [Sunni militants] on to the streets." He was referring to reports, denied by British forces, that 150 prisoners escaped when British tanks demolished a prison wall to rescue the two men.

In Najaf, a senior aide to Mr Sadr, Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, said: "The media and the British are not reflecting a true version events, which is that the people of Basra, including members of the al-Mahdi army, came to the support of the Iraqi police who were under attack by the British for trying to do their jobs. The real problem here is of Iraqi sovereignty. We may have it in name but we won't see it in reality until the occupation forces leave. That is the only message that Moqtada is giving."

He said a few days earlier thousands of Mahdi members had provided security for a huge Shia pilgrimage to the holy city of Kerbala. "Was that reported?" he asked. Read more