Daily Telegraph: Fears that Basra is slipping beyond control were fuelled at the weekend when the governor suspended the city’s police chief, who is a strong supporter of British attempts to purge the force of militia elements. The Daily Telegraph
By Oliver Poole in Baghdad
Fears that Basra is slipping beyond control were fuelled at the weekend when the governor suspended the city’s police chief, who is a strong supporter of British attempts to purge the force of militia elements.
As British forces lost two more servicemen a week after five were killed when their helicopter was shot down, the British operation was thrown into further doubt when Governor Mohammed Musabah al-Waili accused the police chief and the respected commander of the Iraqi army’s Basra-based 10th Brigade of links to terrorist groups.
As well as condemning Maj Gen Hassan Sawadi and Gen Abdul Latif Thaban, Mr Musabah made allegations of corruption against the region’s border guards, who are seen as key to stopping weapons being smuggled in from Iran.
The governor’s allegations were vehemently refuted by British officials yesterday. Robert Collett, the Basra consulate spokesman, stressed that Britain did not “recognise” their validity.
Frustration with the governor’s posturing spilled on to the streets yesterday when 2,000 people demonstrated against his declaration, particularly its inclusion of two local moderate Shia clerics.
In February Mr Musabah suspended all local government co-operation with British forces, a move that paralysed police reform and even prevented new equipment being delivered to schools.
Last week’s helicopter crash resulted in the governor announcing an end to the co-operation boycott, raising hopes that a more effective working relationship would now be possible.
These now look in danger of being dashed unless the provisional council can be persuaded to overrule the governor’s decision when it meets later this week.