The full scale of the chaos left behind by British forces in Basra was revealed on Sunday as the city's police chief described a province in the grip of well-armed militias strong enough to overpower security forces and brutal enough to behead women considered not sufficiently Islamic.
As British forces finally handed over security in Basra Province, marking the end of four-and-a-half years of control in southern Iraq, Major General Jalil Khalaf, the new police commander, said the occupation had left him with a situation that was close to mayhem.
"They left me militia, they left me gangsters and they left me all the troubles in the world," he said.
Khalaf painted a very different picture from that of British officials who, while acknowledging problems in the area, said the handover was timely and appropriate.
Major General Graham Binns, who led British troops into the city in 2003, said the province had "begun to regain its strength."
But Khalaf lists a catalogue of failings:
* Basra has become so lawless that in the last three months 45 women have been killed for being "immoral" because they were not fully covered or because they may have given birth outside wedlock;
* The British unintentionally rearmed Shiite militias by failing to recognize that Iraqi troops were loyal to more than one authority;
* Shiite militia are better armed than his men and control the country's main port.
Khalaf also said the main problem the Iraqi security forces now faced was the struggle to wrest control back from the militia. He appealed for the British to help him.
"We need the British to help us to watch our borders -- both sea and land and we need their intelligence and air support and to keep training the Iraqi police," he said.
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who attended the handover ceremony, acknowledged that the territory was not "a land of milk and honey" and promised Britain would remain a "committed friend" of Iraq. But he insisted it was the right time to hand back control.
"The key conditions for the transfer of security responsibility to the Iraqi security forces are whether they are up to it: do they have the numbers? Do they have the leadership and training to provide leadership for this province? And the answer to those three questions is yes," he said.
After the handover, UK Defence Secretary Des Browne the contribution of British forces had been outstanding.
A scaled-down UK force will remain in a single base at Basra airport, with a small training mission and a rapid reaction team on "overwatch." Britain now has 4,500 troops in Iraq.
Khalaf, who has survived 20 assassination attempts since he became police chief six months ago, said Britain's intentions had been good but misguided.
"I don't think the British meant for this mess to happen. When they disbanded the Iraqi police and military after [former president] Saddam [Hussein] fell the people they put in their place were not loyal to the Iraqi government. The British trained and armed these people in the extremist groups and now we are faced with a situation where these police are loyal to their parties not their country," Khalaf said.
He said the most shocking aspect of the breakdown of law and order in Basra was the murder of women for being unIslamic.
"They are being killed because they are accused of behaving in an immoral way. When they kill them they put underwear and indecent clothes on them," he said. "Some of them have even been killed with their children because their killer says that they come out of an adulterous relationship."
Also See: The crumbling rights of Iraqi women
A British charity has teamed up with scientists to see whether dogs could help detect COVID-19 through their keen sense of smell, it said yesterday. Medical Detection Dogs is to work with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University in northeast England to determine whether canines could help with diagnoses. It follows previous research into dogs’ ability to sniff out malaria and is based on a belief that each disease triggers a distinct odor. The organizations said that they had begun preparations to train dogs in six weeks “to help provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the tail end
Under partial lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spaniards are allowed to leave home only for essential outings, walking a dog being one of them, but not a rented dog, the Civil Guard said on Wednesday as it sanctioned a man who had repeatedly tried to rent his dogs out via Facebook so that people could walk them. “The man was advertising activities which implied people leaving their homes to rent dogs, or walk rented dogs,” said a Civil Guard spokeswoman in the northeastern Galicia region. “That would be infringing the decree that only permits going outdoors for work, groceries, walking
Britain’s Prince Charles, the eldest son and heir to Queen Elizabeth II, is showing mild symptoms of COVID-19, but “otherwise remains in good health,” his office said yesterday. The 71-year-old and his wife, Camilla, who does not have coronavirus, are currently self-isolating in Scotland, Clarence House said. “The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus,” it said in a statement, using his official title. “He has been displaying mild symptoms, but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.” “The Duchess of Cornwall [Camilla] has also been tested, but does not have
The water service in Odessa, a port city in southern Ukraine, was suddenly overrun this week with calls from worried residents with a peculiar concern. Were officials really planning to run an antiseptic solution through the city’s taps instead of water? The calls were sparked by a message on social media claiming that: “Today, from 11pm until the morning, antiseptic will be distributed” in the water system. The antiseptic supposedly included several different whiskies — a brand for each district. However outlandish the claim, Odessa’s water agency, Infoxvodokanal, still issued a clarification. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, false news stories have spiked in