AFP: Militia groups have infiltrated the police force in Iraq’s southern city of Basra, the head of the British army said on Thursday, adding that there was possibly an Iranian influence. LONDON, Oct 20 (AFP) – Militia groups have infiltrated the police force in Iraq’s southern city of Basra, the head of the British army said on Thursday, adding that there was possibly an Iranian influence.
But General Sir Mike Jackson emphasised that this influence was not necessarily directed by the Iranian government in Tehran.
The Islamic republic has consistently denied interfering in Iraq, and blames the presence of foreign troops for the ongoing violence there.
Asked by BBC radio about the influence of militias in Basra, Jackson said: “It is clear that to some degree, it is more difficult to be precise, but to some degree the local police have been infiltrated by people whose loyalty is to some sectoral group, and not to the people as a whole.
“This is obviously not the right answer, and we are taking steps alongside the Iraqis themselves, to put this right.”
He said it was unacceptable for policemen to engage in criminal activity.
“That is simply not on. It is not on in any country,” Jackson said. “Where there is clear evidence that policemen have been committing criminal acts, they will be arrested, and the process of law will be applied against them.”
British troops, who patrol Basra and help train the local security forces, raided a police station and a nearby house last month to rescue two of their men who were briefly captured by Iraqis.
The BBC asked Jackson what role neighbouring Iran was playing in this infiltration by militia elements.
He said: “(Those individuals are) not loyal to Iran per se. But there seems to be some evidence that some — some — elements from across the border are interfering in the circumstances in the neighbouring state.
“I do not ascribe this to the government per se, necessarily, or to any particular group. Because it is quite a difficult situation, it is complex, but there seems to be evidence of some interference, and that of course is reprehensible.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior officials have said there is evidence of an Iranian connection to a series of deadly attacks on British troops in southern Iraq.
Turning to the general security situation, Jackson said it was a varied picture and that the violence was not representative of the whole country.
He emphasised that the political process was moving forwards.