Basra in 2006: The height of the insurgency

Three years after British soldiers had been welcomed as the saviours of Basra, the city was in the grip of a violent insurgency and relations between the 8,000-odd garrison and dominant Shia population had sunk to an all-time low.



Each day brought fresh reports of attacks on British army patrols, sectarian clashes, kidnappings and asassinations.

By May 2006 the situation had become so desperate that the Iraqi government declared a state of emerency in the city, prompting Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to pledge to end the insurgency once and for all.

On 27 September 2006 British commanders struck back in a military-led operation to tackle all groups whose activities posed a threat to the city's security. Operation Sinbad was to be a last dice throw to hand security back to a trained and discplined police force and allow British forces to pull out of Basra to new headquarters at the airport.

Across the city hundreds of soldiers embarked on a series of raids against the homes of suspected members of the militias and criminal gangs.

In one of these operations a unit from the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment was sent to a residential district of Al-Qibla a few miles outside Basra. Exactly what the soldiers’ orders were is not clear. But it seems that the unit arrived in the early hours of the morning of 15 November at the home of Sabiha Khudur Talib when the family was still asleep. Not in dispute is that shortly after the soldiers’ arrival, shots were fired and Mrs Talib’s son was killed. According to the family the shooting lasted 20 minutes before the soldiers entered the small two-roomed property. A military report of the incident says that Mrs Talib was injured in the crossfire and taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. But her other son says that he saw his mother being led away, uninjured, to an armoured vehicle.

In his witness statement Gatii Karim Al-Maliki says he remembers hearing shouts in English from outside the house and realised the home was being attacked by British soldiers.

"My mother grabbed hold of me and pulled me into a corner where she cuddled me close. As the shots seemed to come from all angles into the room and we were both still very exposed it was a miracle we were not shot. I did not dare move and recall that my mother began to pray."

He adds: "After what seemed like 20 minutes the firing stopped and British soldiers entered the house. One soldier pointed a laser beam at me and I immediately threw up my hands so he did not shoot me. A soldier then grabbed me by my collar, lifted me up and then threw me face down onto the floor. The soldiers had flashlights with them and at this point I saw my brother Karim sitting against the wall. He was still and I saw his blood all around. It was obvious he was dead."

Says Mr Al-Maliki: "My mother began shouting and pleading with the soldiers and she was calling out mine and Karim’s names. Although the calls pained me at least I knew that she was alive."

Later he describes the soldiers leading his mother out of the house. "As I was kneeling on the ground I heard my mother shouting for me and Karim. I looked up and saw my mother being led roughly, only a couple of metres in front of me by approximately four of five soldiers. I shouted to her. I could see that my mother was trying to hold a blanket around her legs. I could see her body and I could see no signs of injury. I could not believe they were treating my old mother in this way."

Mr Al-Maliki says the soldiers then led his mother to a military vehicle: "I was very worried about her, but could see that she was at least uninjured. I then saw a soldier hit her on her back with the butt of a rifle. The soldiers pulled the blanket off her legs, wrapped this around her and shoved her into the vehicle. I had a clear view of this from where I was kneeling.”

Mr Al-Maliki claims he was beaten by the soldiers in a Land Rover which took him to an Army base in Basra. There he was interrogated and accused of being an insurgent. He was questioned about rocket attacks which had been launched from the Al-Qibla area. But during the second interrogation a British officer apologised to him and issued him with a $5 note. He was later driven outside the British base, from where he hired a taxi home. He had been detained for 10 hours.

Mr Al-Malaki returned home to a crowd of journalists in his house. “I forced my way past the people in the house and went to the room where Karim had been killed in. There was still blood over the floor. I looked at the area where my mother and I had been cowering, and there was no blood there... The house was badly damaged... My uncles had taken my brother to bury him. I was extremely upset by this. I was weeping.”

His relatives tried to spare him the true fate of his mother by telling him that she was ill in hospital. But he later found out that the family had buried his mother as well.

“I believe my mother was tortured and killed by British soldiers. Before they arrested her, she was fine. Now she was dead. When I found out what had happened to my mother I was inconsolable and cried uncontrollably.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own