What it is is not exactly clear
Hundreds of British and Iraqi soldiers assaulted a police station in the southern city of Basra on Monday, killing seven gunmen, rescuing 127 prisoners from what the British said was almost certain execution and ultimately reducing the facility to rubble.There's a man with a gun over there, tellin' me I got to beware:
The military action was one of the most significant undertaken by British troops since the 2003 invasion, British officials said, adding that it was an essential step in any plan to re-establish security in Basra.
When the combined British and Iraqi force of 1,400 troops gained control of the station, it found the prisoners being held in conditions that a British military spokesman, Maj. Charlie Burbridge, described as “appalling.” More than 100 men were crowded into a single cell, 30 feet by 40 feet, he said, with two open toilets, two sinks and just a few blankets spread over the concrete floor.
A significant number showed signs of torture. Some had crushed hands and feet, Major Burbridge said, while others had cigarette and electrical burns and a significant number had gunshot wounds to their legs and knees.
The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.Wnning hearts and minds: Britain v. the US.
The Bush administration made no public announcement of the politically delicate seizure of the Iranians, though in response to specific questions the White House confirmed Sunday that the Iranians were in custody.
Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”
It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would not identify those being held. One official said that “a lot of material” was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.
Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.
Over the past four days, the Iraqis and Iranians have engaged in intense behind-the-scenes efforts to secure the release of the remaining detainees. One Iraqi government official said, “The Iranian ambassador has been running around from office to office.”