Tuesday, September 20, 2005
British in Basra: the plot thickens posted by bat020This week's issue of Socialist Worker includes an interview with Sheikh Hassan al-Zarqani, a spokesperson for rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who explains why exactly Iraqi police arrested two British soldiers in Basra on Monday:
Sheikh Hassan told Socialist Worker that the two undercover soldiers seized by Iraqi police last Monday were armed with explosives and a remote control detonator. The soldiers were disguised as members of Sadr's militia, the Mehdi Army.
The trouble started when a senior Sadr official was arrested on Sunday. "We called a protest outside the mayor’s office on Monday demanding the Sheikh be released," Sheikh Hassan said. "This protest was peaceful."
"But events in our city took a sinister turn when the police tried to stop two men dressed as members of the Mehdi Army driving near the protest. The men opened fire on the police and passers-by. After a car chase they were arrested."
"What our police found in their car was very disturbing — weapons, explosives and a remote control detonator," Sheikh Hassan said. "These are the weapons of terrorists. We believe these soldiers were planning an attack on a market or other civilian targets, and thanks be to God they were stopped and countless lives were saved."
Sheik Hassan also gives a markedly different account of events leading up to the soldiers' release:
"The two men were taken to the police station to answer questions about their activities. That afternoon the British army came in with tanks and armoured cars, demanding the two be released."
"The police refused as they were considered to be planning terrorist attacks, and as they were disguised as members of the Mehdi Army, the police wanted to know who their target was. Thousands of people gathered to defend the police station. British troops opened fire and the crowds responded with stones and firebombs."
"The soldiers drove a tank into the police station and threatened to kill the police officers if they did not hand over the two terrorists. It is only then, to save any further loss of life, that the men were released."
He has some sharp questions for the British Army:
"Why were these men dressed as Mehdi Army? Why were they carrying explosives and where were they planning to detonate their bomb? Were they planning an outrage so that they could create tensions with other communities?"
And he calls on the British people to oppose the occupation:
"We have only the warmest regards for the British people, who have protested in their tens of thousands against the occupation of our country. We fear that the British government plans to send more troops. We appeal to the British people to oppose this as it can only deepen our problems"
Hence, September 24th.