- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

BASRA, Iraq (AP) — In a major show of force, British soldiers used tanks to break down the walls of the central jail in this southern city late yesterday and freed two Britons, reportedly undercover commandos, who had been arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi police officers.

About 150 Iraqi prisoners also fled as British commandos stormed inside and rescued their comrades, said Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi television cameraman who lives across the street from the jail. Earlier yesterday, demonstrators hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at British tanks, and at least four persons were killed.

The fighting in the oil city of Basra, 340 miles south of the capital, erupted after British armor encircled the jail where the two Britons were being held.

Arab satellite television stations showed pictures of two Western men sitting on the floor of the jail building with their hands tied behind their backs.

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

British military officials had declined to comment on reports that the two men were soldiers operating undercover, but the Ministry of Defense in London told Britain’s Press Association that “two military personnel were detained by Iraqi authorities earlier today.”

British forces in Iraq are based in Basra and responsible for the city’s security.

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