Archive for Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Iraqis cut ties with British to protest alleged abuse

February 15, 2006

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— More than 1,000 protesters burned a British flag Tuesday and the regional administration in Iraq's main southern province severed all ties with British authorities over video footage showing British soldiers allegedly beating and kicking Iraqi youths.

In London, the British Defense Ministry announced the arrest of two more people in connection with the images. Another person - apparently the man who shot the video - was arrested Monday.

Protesters, many of them supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, marched on the British Consulate in Basra, where they burned a British flag and shouted slogans against the alleged abuse of the youths during a riot Jan. 10, 2004, in the southern city of Amarah.

Protesters held banners reading "No, no to Tony Blair" and "Try the British soldiers involved in this aggression."

With outrage over the video mounting, the governing council for Basra province, which includes Iraq's huge southern oil fields, announced it was cutting ties with British military and civilian operations in the area, headquarters of Britain's more than 8,000-member military contingent in Iraq.

The Basra police chief, Maj. Gen. Hassan Suwadi, said Iraqi security forces would cease joint patrols with the British military in the province to protest the alleged abuse.


Iraqis rally in protest of British military presence in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. Authorities in the southern Iraqi province severed all ties with Britain on Tuesday amid the furor of the alleged British military abuse of several Iraqi males two years ago in Amarah.

Iraqis rally in protest of British military presence in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. Authorities in the southern Iraqi province severed all ties with Britain on Tuesday amid the furor of the alleged British military abuse of several Iraqi males two years ago in Amarah.

"We condemn the abuse of the British forces and demand the British government to adopt legal procedures as soon as possible to punish its soldiers who carried out the abuse," Suwadi told The Associated Press.

In Amarah, about 100 miles north of Basra, two Iraqis who claimed to have been beaten on the video - Bassem Shaker and Tariq Abdul-Razzak - said they would seek compensation from Britain.

The beatings allegedly occurred during a violent protest in Amarah by hundreds of people demanding jobs. Six people were killed and 11 injured, according to reports at the time.

Shaker said British troops "were beating us with fists and batons and were kicking us" before taking the prisoners to a British base "where they also beat us and frightened us with dogs before releasing us before sunset."

He said he didn't report the treatment because he did not believe any officials would deal with their complaints.

"But when we saw this tape and the amount of anger it caused inside and outside Iraq, we decided to come today ... to sue the British forces and compensate us," he said.

Relations between the British and the Shiite-dominated provincial administration have been strained in recent weeks after an uptick in attacks on British troops and moves by the British to crack down on Shiite militias that have infiltrated the police and security services.

British military spokesman Capt. James St. John-Price said British authorities were trying to convince the local administration to reverse the decision.

"Decisions like these and reductions in patrols hinder the process of promoting security and economic reform and merely work to the detriment of the people of Basra," St. John-Price said.

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