The [Iraqi] official [speaking to CNN on the condition of anonymity] said two unknown gunmen in full Arabic dress began firing on civilians in central Basra, wounding several, including a traffic police officer. There were no fatalities, the official said.Within three hours, British forces rescued these marines in dramatic fashion, crashing an armored vehicle (escorted by a tank) into the Basra jail!
The two gunmen fled the scene but were captured and taken in for questioning, admitting they were British marines carrying out a "special security task," the official said.
After confirming that his country's marines were freed, British Defense Ministry Secretary John Reid said
British forces "remain committed to helping the Iraqi government for as long as they judge that a coalition presence is necessary to provide security.Hmmm.
The BBC is reporting that insurgents have infiltrated the Iraqi police and that the British troops were being turned over to a Shiite militia group.
AFP says the troops were rescued from a house after they had already been transferred there from the jail. The British Army is apparently selling that story. Whatever the case, the jail was stormed first. The AFP article says the captured troops "appeared to be working undercover and...were dressed in Arab clothes and driving a civilian car." They "were detained after opening fire on a police patrol."
Some Iraqis are sticking to the original story, as reported by CNN. BBC:
[Iraqi Interior Minister] Baqir Solagh Jabr told BBC News the men never left police custody or the prison building in Basra and were not handed to militants.Double hmmmmmm. Someone has this wrong.
He said the British army acted on "rumour" when it stormed the prison looking for them.
Meanwhile, in Basra, hundreds of Iraqis are conducting an anti-British protest outside the police headquarters. Some banners equate the British soldiers with terrorists.
Discussion question: If the Brits are going to pretend to be in the militia and the militia forces are going to pretend to be the police -- then who gets to pretend to be the Brits?
Note: I originally tried to post this around midnight on the 20th, but blogger let me down. So this is slightly updated on the morning of the 21st.