UK may return to Iraq crisis city

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media:BBC News
Date:21 Oct 2006


British troops are on standby to re-enter Amara in southern Iraq after an
outbreak of serious violence.

The Army could return to the city just two months after it pulled out if the
Amara authorities ask for help, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed.

Clashes between police and up to 300 gunmen have left at least 31 people
dead and 90 injured.

Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said there would have to be a
reassessment of the transfer.

He said: "After what happened in Amara over the last two days the Iraqi
military commanders, as well as the British commanders and the
multi-national forces command, has really to look deeper and to evaluate the
situation whether Amara or Maysan Province is ready for the transfer to the
Iraqi security."

The MoD pulled all UK troops out of Amara in August because the security
situation was "relatively quiet" there.

Iraqi forces took over security in the city - in Maysan province - and
British troops were given other responsibilities in the surrounding area.

But about 700 Iraqi troops have been sent to Amara to deal with the current
violence, and a 500-strong battle group of British soldiers has been put on

A curfew has been put into force, but BBC reporters in Iraq say it is
unclear whether the situation is under control.

Major Charlie Burbridge, based in Basra, confirmed that British forces were
providing air surveillance in the city.

He told Reuters news agency: "There were a number of clashes between the
Iraqi police and rogue elements of militias in Amara.

"Some of these clashes became quite intense exchanges of fire."

High-level delegation

It is thought the violence was sparked on Thursday morning by the arrest of
the brother of the local leader of the Mehdi militia, loyal to the radical
Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Gunmen attacked a number of police stations in Amara - the administrative
centre of Maysan with a population of about 300,000.

A high-level delegation has been sent to the city by Iraqi Prime Minister
Nouri Maliki to seek a solution to the problem.

Iraqi officials claimed that the army had managed to quell the violence, but
eyewitness reports suggested there was still gunfire well into the

The UK military has been making moves to hand over power to Iraqi forces in
Maysan, following transfers of power in Dhi Qar and Muthanna provinces
earlier this year.

The BBC's Paul Wood, in nearby Basra, said there were two ways of reading
the current situation.

If the Iraqi army has calmed things down, our correspondent said it would be
seen as a "vindication of the British strategy of handing over to the Iraqis
- it shows they are capable of coping on their own".

"The other reading is that things are still unstable, the British army will
have to go in, and that will throw that whole strategy into reverse."

Basra and Maysan are the only two provinces still under British control.