- Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed
- Mississippi abortion law can’t be enforced
- Teacher who survived Sandy Hook has book deal
- Jury awards Jesse Ventura $1.8M in case vs. ‘American Sniper’ author Chris Kyle
- Government OKs Arab-owned company to operate U.S. cargo port
- Defense lawyer: McDonnell’s wife had ‘crush’ on CEO
- Chinese hackers stole ‘huge quantities’ of sensitive data on Israel’s Iron Dome
- House unveils bill to speed deportations of illegal immigrant children
- Californians protest middle school for hiring white man to teach cultural studies
- Killer’s sentencing overturned because mother couldn’t find seat in courtroom
Militias supplant Basra police, inflict chaos
Question of the Day
BAGHDAD — They wear police uniforms and drive official police vehicles, but the main priority of the rival militias that have usurped Basra’s police force is not to maintain law and order.
Instead, they have turned Iraq’s third-largest city into a patchwork of rival fiefdoms, where competing militias run corruption scams and kill their rivals, dumping the bodies into a garbage dump known as the Lot on the outskirts of the city.
Although British troops have earned plaudits for avoiding the sledgehammer tactics of American troops in Sunni Arab areas to the north, questions are being asked about the wisdom of Britain’s “softly, softly” policy.
British officers, however, say they have little choice in the matter, insisting that troop strength has been insufficient to deal with the problem.
“Quite frankly, we have one brigade here and we’ve worked bloody miracles,” said an officer in Basra who asked not to be identified. “We have had to let the Iraqis get on with it.”
There was a sense of inevitability about the chaotic scenes in Basra on Monday, when British tanks smashed the walls of an Iraqi prison to free two undercover British soldiers seized earlier by Iraqi forces.
British officials had been keen to emphasize the relative tranquillity of the city in comparison with Baghdad and other towns to the north.
But behind the scenes is growing unease at Basra’s descent into lawlessness and on the increasing influence of Iran on the city’s main political factions.
Troops were ordered not to stop if challenged by police officers in case they were militiamen linked to attacks that, this month alone, have resulted in the deaths of three British soldiers and eight Americans in the Basra region.
The raid to rescue two Special Air Service commandos held by a militia that operated as part of Basra’s police force has destroyed the pretense of a normal relationship with Basra’s authorities.
The group holding the two soldiers blithely ignored instructions from the government in Baghdad to release them, leading many observers to ask who really controls the city.
In May, Basra’s police chief, Hassan al-Sade, acknowledged that he had lost control of 75 percent of his 13,750-strong force, saying they either worked for political factions or were involved in attacks on coalition forces.
For his honesty, Basra’s governor, Mohammed al-Waili — who condemned the British raid to free the commandos as “barbaric, savage and irresponsible” — fired him.
Since the United States handed over sovereignty to an Iraqi government in June 2004, Basra has become one of the country’s most conservative Shi’ite bastions.
The city is essentially divided among three factions, although even they are riven by internal squabbles.
- Boehner rules out impeachment: 'Scam started by Democrats'
- Obama thanks Muslims for 'building the very fabric of our nation'
- PHILLIPS: Once-in-a-century stupidity
- Federal judge grants 90-day stay in D.C. gun case
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Obama: 'Not a new Cold War,' but new Russia sanctions announced
- Smugglers, rainstorm combine to poke holes in border fence
- Obama's brother wears Hamas scarf bearing anti-Israel slogans in photo
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world