7 British Soldiers Wounded In Battle

7 British Soldiers wounded in Battle with Badr, Demonstrators in Amarah

Ash-Sharq al-Awsat: The police chief in the province of Maysan announced yesterday that two Iraqi civilians, one of them a woman, were killed Friday in confrontations and an exchange of fire between demonstrators and elements belonging to the Badr Corps on the one hand, and between British troops on the other, in the province of Amarah in southern Iraq. A Coalition spokesman confirmed the confrontations, which led to the wounding of 7 British soldiers, but said he had no information on civilian casualties.

Capt. Isma`il Kadhim said that “Someone opened fire on a British patrol, before it took cover in a site belonging to the Badr Corps.” This is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq in the town of Qala Salih (40 km south of Amarah). He continued, “The British entered the building and took everyone inside prisoner, confiscating weapons. But a crowd was around the building, which confronted them and damaged military equipment.”

In contrast, AP reported, ‘ “The patrol returned fire after receiving fire from heavy machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade,” a British Ministry of Defense spokeswoman said. “They were extracted by a quick reaction force and whilst the incident was happening, four of the patrol members received non-life threatening injuries.”

And here is how a later AP report itself described the incident: ‘ In Amarah, seven British soldiers were wounded after being fired on with handguns and rocket-propelled grenades during a three-hour firefight in southern Iraq, coalition officials said. Three Iraqis were killed, British officials said. The soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry were arresting a man when a crowd gathered around their convoy. The British came under fire by machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade and returned fire, a military spokeswoman said.

Kadhim said that the troops asked for reinforcements, so a military helicopter was sent to support them. Likewise, the road between Amarah and Basra was cut, and guns were fired, killing two, a man and a woman.

An American military spokesman said that a single bullet was fired at the British and that the crowd confronted them after the arrest of a suspect. When the troops later came under rocket fire, they call for reinforcements.

AP adds ‘ Britain was the United States’ main ally in the Iraq conflict and has lost 58 soldiers since the war started on March 20. Some 8,000 British forces are currently stationed in Iraq. Some 410 Danish troops are based near Qurnah, between Qalah Salih and the city of Basra.

The strength of the Badr Corps throughout the south is no secret. But the dangers of having a paramiliteray force running about were illustrated by this incident. If there is a new Iraqi army, it will have to contend with the Badr Corps. It was supposed to be disarmed and merged into some sort of Iraqi military unit, but neither thing has happened and now it won’t at all. After last Tuesday’s horrific bombings, the Shiites demanded that Badr Corps be reinvigorated.