British troops demolish Iraqi police station

More than 1,000 British troops carried out a dawn raid on a police station in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after receiving intelligence that dozens of prisoners were being tortured and faced imminent execution.

In the latest violent episode in a city increasingly riven by conflict, the troops, supported by helicopters and Iraqi forces, killed seven gunmen and demolished Jamiat police station, the headquarters of the serious crimes unit. Yesterday's attack, described by Major Charlie Burbridge as a "very significant move", was the climax of a British operation against the unit which had seen the arrests last week of several senior members.

The raid also highlighted the parlous state of the increasingly beleaguered Iraqi police force. Despite the British Ministry of Defence's insistence that Britain's exit strategy from Iraq relies upon building a strong Iraqi police and army, senior officers have begun in recent months to admit that there is a "small rotten core" within the Basra police. This comes as no surprise to locals, who have long claimed that the force is heavily infiltrated by insurgents and is responsible for the vast majority of murders in Iraq's second city.

Sunni leaders have said repeatedly that many police forces are made up of Shia militias who turn a blind eye to the "death squads" operating with grim efficiency around the country.

Last month, police commandos from the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry kidnapped 150 people from the Sunni-run Higher Education Ministry in central Baghdad. Subsequently, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said: "They say the killings and kidnappings are being carried out by men in police uniforms and with police vehicles, but everybody in Baghdad knows the killers and kidnappers are real policemen."

The Baker-Hamilton report released by the Iraq Study Group earlier this month was also heavily critical of the Iraqi police force, which, it said, "has neither the training nor legal authority to conduct criminal investigations, nor the firepower to take on organised crime, insurgents, or militias ... Iraqi police cannot control crime, and they routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention, torture, and targeted execution of Sunni Arab civilians."

The damning verdict was a blow to the Bush administration; the US has claimed that its timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq is dependent on recruiting and training Iraqi security services - a process that has been long and troubled.

For many young Iraqi men, joining the police is one of few sources of employment. But, as violence escalates and insurgent infiltration of units continues, the men face grave risks.

The Interior Minister, Jawad Bolani, revealed on Sunday that 12,000 Iraqi police officers have died in the line of duty since the US-led invasion in 2003 - one death for every 16 of the 190,000 officers in the country.

The Christmas Day operation against Jamiat police station had been planned since July but intelligence that indicated an imminent threat to prisoners forced British military leaders to act more quickly. After British and Iraqi troops surrounded the building after midnight, prisoners were found crowded into a cell, living in "appalling conditions", British forces said. Many had crushed feet or hands and gunshot wounds to the knee, apparently signs of torture. They were given medical assessments and transferred to another police station.

British officials said the Shia Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the Basra governor, Mohammed Waili, had approved the dissolution of the Jamiat unit, but it was unclear if they had endorsed yesterday's raid.

* In Baghdad yesterday 10 civilians were killed and at least 11 others injured in a car bombing at a Shia shopping area. In a separate incident in the capital, a suicide bomber killed at least two and injured about 20 others on a minibus.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Sport
bottom
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: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee