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
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture