Les anglonautes

About | Search | Vocapedia | Learning | Podcasts | Videos | History | Arts | Science | Translate

 Previous Home Up Next


History > 2008 > UK > War > Iraq (II)




Dave Brown


The Independent

Monday 10 November 2008


L to R:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown,

Conservative Party leader David Cameron

















Prime Minister Gordon Brown

lays a wreath

at the Basra Airbase war memorial in southern Iraq



A moment for truth as Britain exits Iraq         The Independent       18.12.2008

















A moment for truth as Britain exits Iraq

Gordon Brown says British troops will leave Iraq by July.
But after six years of occupation, 178 British deaths,
as well as countless Iraqi casualties,
there is growing pressure for an independent inquiry
into the causes, conduct and cost of war


Thursday, 18 December 2008
The New York Times
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor


Politicians from across the political divide will today demand an inquiry into the cost, causes and conduct of Britain's operations in Iraq as Gordon Brown returns home after announcing the final withdrawal of troops from the country by July.

Opposition parties believe Mr Brown may allow the long-delayed inquiry to begin next summer but that it will not report until after the next general election, which could be as late as June 2010. Mr Brown will make a statement on Iraq to Parliament today.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) told The Independent that the cost of British operations in Iraq since the 2003 invasion has been £7.836bn – the equivalent of £3.7m a day.

Critics say that would be enough to fund 25,200 teachers for 10 years and to build 107 new hospitals. The final bill will increase before the pullout of the remaining 4,100 troops.

Some defence experts also say the Government's figure understates the true cost of the Iraq operation. The MoD admits that it does not include payments to the families of the 178 servicemen killed or the cost of treating the injured. Some experts claim the official figure does not cover the wear and tear on military equipment, but the MoD insists that has been taken into account.

Day-to-day costs such as servicemen's pay is met from the MoD's £34bn annual budget. Extra operational costs, including top-up payments for troops, are met from a special reserve fund at the Treasury, to which the MoD submits a bill twice a year. MPs claim the Iraq budget has been shrouded in secrecy. Initially, the Government declined to give separate figures for the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some figures emerged only through freedom of information requests. MPs have demanded more openness, citing the greater scrutiny by the US Congress of America's spending on Iraq, which dwarfs Britain's and is estimated at £400bn by the end of last year.

Mr Brown, who visited Baghdad and Basra yesterday, announced that the British mission in Iraq would end no later than 31 May, and that the troops would come home within two months. Between 200 and 300 military advisers are expected to remain to help the Iraqi government.

The Prime Minister said: "We have made a huge contribution and, of course, given people an economic stake in the future of Iraq. We leave Iraq a better place. I am proud of the contribution British forces have made."

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said last night: "The Government is trying to end this war as they began it by trying to hide the true cost and deceiving the public. But Gordon Brown cannot be allowed to sidestep the massive part he played in signing the cheques for the biggest foreign policy disaster in half a century. There must be a fully independent public inquiry which must include the true financial cost of this catastrophic war and its aftermath."

Peter Kilfoyle, a former Labour defence minister, said the true cost of the war in Iraq was being "camouflaged". "Any figure cannot reflect the human cost of what was a colossal error of thinking, based on our slavish devotion to the special relationship with a fading US superpower," he said.

He added that British forces were trying to maintain a role in the world they were no longer capable of, and which the public would not support if they were told the real financial cost.

Liam Fox, the shadow Defence Secretary, said: "Now that we know our troops are being withdrawn there is no excuse not to have the inquiry into the Iraq war that we have demanded. We need to learn the lessons from Iraq so that we do no repeat the mistakes in places such as Afghanistan."

The Stop the War Coalition said: "The British people will continue paying for this war long after it is over. Injured and maimed soldiers will have to be cared for; reconstruction in Iraq will have to take place and Britain may be sued by Iraq for reparations for this illegal war."

Mr Brown has promised that there will be an Iraq inquiry "when the time is right", but has not said whether it would be held in public or who would head it. Downing Street said there had already been four investigations into aspects of the war. But critics say their remit was tightly drawn and there has been no over-arching inquiry.




Six years in Iraq


21 March: 45,000 British troops enter southern Iraq alongside 250,000 American soldiers, who quickly topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

24 March: British forces take Basra, Iraq's second largest city, and consolidate control of Iraq's three southern, Shia-dominated provinces.

9 April: Baghdad falls to US forces and President George Bush declares end of "major operations" on 1 May. British troop numbers reduced to 18,000.

13 December: Saddam captured near Tikrit.


Jan–Feb: Low-level insurgencies intensify in Baghdad and Sunni western provinces. Basra and the south are relatively calm.

May: Revelations of abuse of PoW's by British troops leads to escalating clashes between UK forces and militants loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

28 June: US hands sovereignty to interim Iraqi government.


30 January: Iraq votes and power shifts towards Shias.

May: UK troop numbers fall to 8,500 and Tony Blair hints at possible withdrawal.

September: Tensions in Basra ignite as riots spread across the south following a series of anti-British protests.


22 February: The Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, left, one of Shia Islam's most important sites, is blown up; tens of thousands of Iraqis are killed.

6 May: British Lynx helicopter is shot down, killing five, including the first British servicewoman to die in action in Iraq.

13 July: British and Australian forces hand Muthanna to the Iraqi authorities.

30 December: Saddam Hussein is hanged.


January: President Bush orders a troop surge into Baghdad and western provinces.

March: Iraqi forces initiate a crackdown on Shia militants in the south. US criticise UK's role.

September: Remaining 5,000 UK troops in the south withdraw to Basra airport.

December: Basra's province is handed over to the Iraqis.


March: Army is called in to back Iraqi forces against Mehdi army militants.

27 November: Iraqi parliament approves a security pact in which withdraws by 2011.

17 December: Gordon Brown announces UK troop withdrawal by July 2009.

    A moment for truth as Britain exits Iraq, I, 18.12.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/a-moment-for-truth-as-britain-exits-iraq-1202312.html






Stories of loss and love

from families of army's fallen

The number of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan reached 297 this month. Behind each returning coffin are ordinary families destroyed by grief – mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and children mourning their loved ones. Over the past month Dan McDougall has interviewed many of the relatives of the 'Fallen' to coincide with a BBC documentary chronicling the suffering of the families. This is their story


Sunday November 2 2008
The Observer
Dan McDougall
This article appeared in the Observer
on Sunday November 02 2008 on p8 of the News section.
It was last updated at 00.02 on November 02 2008.

'I think about the families, and a life torn apart'

The locals line up pints of bitter at the Kings Head bar in Droylsden, Greater Manchester. Behind the till Ronnie Downes, 60, reads his son's last letter home. Outside the pub hangs a huge picture of Tony and the words: 'Tony: Our son, Everyone's Hero'.

Guardsman Neil 'Tony' Downes, aged 20, was travelling with the Afghan National Army close to the town of Sangin in Helmand province when their vehicle was hit by an explosion.

Before going out to Afghanistan, Tony wrote his family a letter to be opened in the event of his death. Standing in their pub, Ronnie recites passages: 'I love you all from the bottom of my heart. Please don't be mad at what has happened. I did what I had to do, and serving the British army was it. Don't be sad - celebrate my life, because I love you and I will see you all again.' As he finishes, Ronnie falters and breaks down in tears.

'What amazed me most was that my mum and dad were really strong. That really brought us together as a family,' says Ronnie's eldest daughter, Katie, 21. 'My mum campaigned for the soldiers, for the job they were and are doing out there in Afghanistan and Iraq, and inspired us all. Everyone expected her to be the other way. She urged the government not to bring troops home - because it would mean Tony died in vain.

'Tony loved serving with the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. He died doing something he loved. It doesn't stop our pain, but it comforts us to know how fulfilled he was in his career and life as a soldier. My brother had only been in Afghanistan for 12 weeks and was due to return home on 28 June 2007. That date became the date of his funeral.'

Katie says the hardest thing was listening to her brother's letter: 'I think about what must have gone through his head when he was writing that, knowing that he could die.

'Before he left for good, and I remember this vividly, he was packing up one of his huge rucksacks and out popped two letters, from the top of his bag. They both said: "Not to be opened unless deceased." I remember catching my breath as I saw the writing on the envelope.

'My brother was the 60th member of the armed forces to die in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November, 2001, and for the first time it really made me think about what all those other families have gone through and all the families since - each death of a child, a brother, a husband, a boyfriend or a father, a life torn apart.'

The soldier's younger sister, Jodie, 17, describes how she now visits her brother's grave more than ever. 'I talk to him in the cemetery. Sometimes I stand, other times I kneel down and talk to him like he is there,' she says. 'Some days I cry; other days I just pass the time of day. I feel silly and self-conscious speaking to a grave, but whenever I look around, nobody is paying the slightest bit of attention. There are other people there at the gravesides, crying and mourning in their own way, talking to their loved ones and praying. It is definitely therapeutic.'

She adds: 'What has helped me above everything is knowing he is in a better place, a happy place, in heaven. It may sound daft, but I believe angels are looking after him up there, and he is looking down on me and probably laughing at me crying. If he could speak he would probably just laugh and tell me not to be so daft.

'Losing my big brother has definitely brought me closer to all my siblings and to mum and dad. In some ways it makes you special having a brother as a war hero; people look at you and feel sorry for you, but also admire what you have gone through.

'I am only young, but what I do know is I never want to feel pain like this again. I have cried enough now.'

'I couldn't bear to see his coffin in the flag'

St George flags hang limp in the suburban gardens of Eltham in south-east London. Inside her family home, Ruth Rayment, left, sits in front of an electric fire, her knees scrunched up around her neck. She is surrounded by army memorabilia that belonged to her brother, Christopher.

'I was 16 when he died,' says the nursing student, now 20. 'When the men in uniform came knocking on my door, we knew what it was straight away. I remember my mother screaming and collapsing in the front room, I will never forget the wailing.'

Christopher Rayment, a private with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, died aged 22 when a security barrier fell on him while he was manning a checkpoint. He had been in Iraq for more than five months and died just 10 days before he was due to return home to his parents, Pamela and Gordon. Four years on his room remains virtually untouched.

'Everyone expected it to hit me hardest, but I didn't mourn for a year,' says Ruth. 'I started crying on the anniversary of Chris's death - that's when the trauma hit me. It came like a black cloud; it consumed me, and I realised I was depressed. I kept hearing my brother's voice. His presence wasn't frightening, just permanent.'

Ruth thinks her decision not to go to Brize Norton to watch her brother's body arrive back in the UK contributed to what she calls 'suspended reality'.

'For me he was still out there, in Afghanistan, patrolling as a soldier,' she says. 'That's what I convinced myself of, anyway, that he wasn't coming back because he was still out there.

'I think this feeling was because I couldn't bear to see him come back, to see his coffin in the flag. When the realisation he was gone finally hit me, a year later, it felt like I'd been hit by a huge black wave, like a tsunami, and the water was pouring into my ears and nose, suffocating me. It was the most terrifying experience of my life.'

Ruth's sister, Mandy, 29, says her experience of Chris's death was different. She went to Brize Norton to see his body arrive. 'I can honestly say it was the proudest, and in a strange way the happiest, moment of my life,' she says. 'I sent Chris a little charm to take to Afghanistan, a little St Christopher, and it was returned with his body. I keep it with me at all times now.'

Both sisters share a strong sense of spirituality and, like many relatives of the 'Fallen', Mandy has started seeing a clairvoyant. The medium, she claims, brings her closer to her brother's spirit. That is why she finds it hard to visit his grave; she thinks his soul is elsewhere: 'Since Chris died I've been going to church, and last week I was finally baptised. People might think I could be angry with God for what has happened to my family, but my belief in God helps me to come to terms with what has happened. It is his plan and my brother, in the middle of all of this, is in a happier place and is smiling down on us.'

'Daddy is happy in heaven eating crispy duck'

In her small room in the family semi in Wythenshawe, Manchester, seven-year-old Courtney Ellis, above, strums her guitar, singing a song she has written about her father, Private Lee Ellis. To the tune of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star', she sings 'I love daddy in the sky'.

Later she flicks through the album of photographs she keeps under her bed, images of her last holiday with her 23-year-old dad. Her favourite picture shows her father looking on as she opened her presents on Christmas Day.

A Para from 2nd Battalion, Ellis died on attachment to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in Al Amarah, Maysaan province, when he was killed by a roadside bomb on 28 February 2006.

'This is a picture of our last holiday together,' says Courtney. 'Daddy is in heaven now, and although he is dead, he is happy. When someone dies and they are naughty, they go to hell. My mum says that my daddy is eating a lot of crispy duck in heaven. It was his favourite food, and he wouldn't share it, even though he is in heaven.'

'He brought us here. And now we are alone'

Saturday night television blares in the background as a crescendo of game show applause drowns out Camari Babakobau's faint voice. In mid-sentence she breaks down in tears and walks, head bowed, towards the front windows of her cramped barracks home. At her feet, her two young sons fight over the remote control, increasing the volume further as they clamour for her attention.

Outside, the rain is pounding the glass. 'The weather is the hardest thing about living in England,' says Camari. 'He brought us here from the islands - my man - to give us a future, and now he has left us. We are alone. This is an army house. We will lose it in two years and have to go elsewhere.'

On the wall of her lounge is an oversized portrait of her dead husband, Trooper Ratu Sakeasi Babakobau, in his Household Cavalry uniform. In the hallway, next to a calendar of the Pacific islands, is another photograph of the guardsman in desert fatigues; behind him, the scrubland of Afghanistan's Shomali Plain. It is the last picture taken of him before he died.

Next Sunday, Camari, 28, who lives on a bleak housing estate on the outskirts of Windsor, will be one of thousands laying wreaths at memorials around the country. Her husband was killed on 2 May 2008 in the Nowzad area of northern Helmand, the victim of a Taliban landmine.

Ratu's journey began in an MoD recruiting interview in Suva, Fiji's port capital. He was one of a growing foreign legion fighting for someone else's queen and country. He arrived in the UK in May 2004, and his first deployment overseas came four years later. But within a month of arriving in Afghanistan, the 29-year-old Fijian was dead. On the other side of the world, uniformed officers and a Household Cavalry chaplain were dispatched to Windsor to knock on Camari's door.

'Other wives and mothers tell me they knew when they opened the door and saw the uniformed officers standing on the doorstep,' she says. 'I didn't know. I didn't expect it, because I probably didn't understand how dangerous my husband's job was. I thought they had come to see me about my son's British citizenship. I couldn't stop crying.

'He returned six days later in a coffin with a foreign flag over his body,' says Camari. 'All I could think about was that my boys would never know their father; they would never play rugby with him, or be scolded for not doing their homework. To them, their father would be a photograph - not even a memory.

'The band played at Brize Norton and I stood there weeping, clutching my children's hands. The aircraft looked terrifying as it came in to land. I kept thinking, "Why is he in there, not breathing, his useless body coming back to me - for what?"

'Young Fijians join the British army for financial reasons, for citizenship, for an escape from poverty and island life. My husband made this choice. For what? We Fijians don't understand anything about foreign affairs. Sure, the money is good for us, but you only have one life. My children will be told their father was a hero, but maybe he was foolish. Maybe others who follow him from Fiji are foolish.'

• The Fallen is a three-hour film in which families and friends of the soldiers who have died talk about their feelings and grief. It will be broadcast at 8pm on Saturday 15 November on BBC2.1

    Stories of loss and love from families of army's fallen, O, 2.11.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/02/military-afghanistan-iraq-fatalities-soldier






Iraq hostage 'suicide'

Militant video claims

British captive killed himself


Sunday July 20, 2008
Amelia Hill, Matthew Weaver and agencies
This article was first published
on guardian.co.uk on Sunday July 20 2008.
It was last updated at 10:51 on July 20 2008.


One of the five British hostages seized in Baghdad last year has committed suicide, according to a videotaped statement released by his kidnappers.

British officials have emphasised that there is "no immediate corroboration" of the claim that the hostage, known only as Jason, has killed himself.

But Gordon Brown said it "very distressing development" said that he was taking it seriously.

The video is entitled Intihar - Arabic for suicide. It opens with a photograph of a man identified as Jason in a written statement that appears on the screen in Arabic.

It states that the kidnappers regret Jason's death, but hold the British government responsible for his fate.

"This procrastination and foot-dragging and lack of seriousness on the part of the British government has prolonged their psychological deterioration, pushing one of them, Jason, to commit suicide on 25/5/08.

"He surprised our brethren, who were taking care of him, with his suicide," reads the statement, which appears on the screen in Arabic and is signed "The Shia Islamic Resistance in Iraq".

Brown called for the "immediate and unconditional" release of the hostage and said efforts were under way behind the scenes to find a solution to the situation.

The prime minister raised the plight of the hostages with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri Maliki, during a visit to Baghdad yesterday.

The foreign secretary, David Miliband, called hostage-taking "disgusting" and deplored the "deep distress and concern" he said the report would cause the families of the five men.

The hostages, an IT consultant named Peter Moore and his four bodyguards, were kidnapped almost 14 months ago from the Iraqi finance ministry by a Shia group seeking the release of nine prisoners in American detention.

Two of the bodyguards are called Jason but their full names have been withheld at their families' request. The video also contains footage of another hostage, called Alan, appealing for the British government to hasten the men's release.

"Physically, I'm not doing well," he says. "Psychologically, I'm doing a lot worse. I want to see my family again." He is from Scotland and has children aged three and 14.

He also appeals for the British government to release Iraqi prisoners, "especially female and religious prisoners."

"I'd like that to be done within one month," he says.

The Sunday Times, which was handed the video, reported that an intermediary said that Jason had attempted suicide twice before. Proof of death would be provided only if the government agreed to negotiate, he said.

In December, a man identified as Jason was featured in a hostage video aired on Al-Arabiya television. Looking haggard and occasionally glancing down as if to read a piece of paper, Jason said he and his fellow captives felt they had been forgotten.

Like the video, the Al-Arabiya broadcast showed a statement and identified the men's captors as the Shia Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

In February the families of the men released their own video, read by Pauline Sweeny, Moore's stepmother, pleading for their release. The kidnappers apparently responded a month later with a posting on a militant Web site rejecting the plea as inspired by the British government.

In May, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, lent his voice to the families' appeal, addressing the kidnappers as "honorable men" and "men of faith".

    Militant video claims British captive killed himself, G, 20.7.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/20/iraq1






Brown sets out plan

for UK pull-out from Iraq

Prime Minister declares aim
to hand Basra over to local military forces


The Observer
Sunday July 20, 2008
Nicholas Watt in Basra
This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday July 20 2008 on p1 of the News section.
It was last updated at 00:01 on July 20 2008.


Gordon Brown yesterday held out the prospect of a substantial withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, possibly as early as next year, when he outlined a four-point road map paving the way for an end to Britain's involvement.

On a one-day visit to Iraq - with a heavy military presence by his side at all times - Brown declared that Iraqi forces would take over Basra airport, the main British military headquarters.

He told British soldiers that they were on the final leg of duties in Iraq in an address at the city's airport in the sweltering afternoon heat of 52C.

Critics pointed to the fact that in October last year Brown pledged to cut the number of troops to 2,500 by spring but yesterday there were still 4,100 holed up at the airport.

His declaration, which could lead to the bulk of British forces leaving Iraq by the time of the general election in 2010, came 24 hours after the White House announced that the US and the Iraqi authorities had agreed a 'general time horizon' for the 'further reduction of US combat forces in Iraq'.

Brown echoed the White House by refusing to be drawn on how many British troops would be withdrawn - and when. 'I am not going to set any artificial timetable,' he said.

The Prime Minister earlier underlined his determination to withdraw troops as he hailed the improved security in Iraq. British troops in the Basra area now face one major incident every six days rather than six incidents a day. Speaking in Baghdad, Brown said: 'It is certainly our intention that we reduce our troop numbers. But I am not going to give an artificial timetable at the moment'.

Brown made clear that he has his eyes firmly set on reducing troop numbers when he outlined a four-point plan, which he described as 'building blocks for the future', to pave the way to Iraqi forces assuming full control. They are:

· Increase the training of the Iraqi police and military forces so they can assume control of security;

· Step up political progress so that provincial elections are held in Iraq by the end of this year and no later than early next year;

· Intensify reconstruction to build on the growing strength of the Iraqi economy. It is growing at 7 per cent this year, compared with 1 per cent last year. Iraq is now producing 2.5m barrels of oil a day, its highest level since the war in 2003;

· Create the conditions so that the Iraqis can resume control of Basra airport - Britain's military headquarters in Iraq - so that it can return to full civilian use. There are 4,000 British troops stationed at Basra airport on 'overwatch' duties.

Brown made clear that he would decide troop numbers in London - and would not defer to the White House.

Brown told troops: 'You are now working with the Iraqi forces to train them up so that they can take over the responsibilities so that we can complete our work here in bringing Basra to democracy, security and eventual prosperity.'

One senior British source made clear Britain believes Iraq is entering new territory after the success of the US-led 'surge', spearheaded by General David Petraeus, the American commander, who met Brown yesterday.

One senior British military source explained that Britain feels it is important to hand over to Iraqi security forces because the presence of British troops will soon be counter-productive: 'We need to assess when the time has come that we will actually get in the way of the Iraqi security forces. That will have consequences. Basra is not Surbiton. But great progress has been made in recent months. You can walk around there now.'

Brown's visit to Baghdad and Basra came ahead of a statement he will make to the commons on Tuesday in which he will update MPs on Britain's military commitment in Iraq.

Downing Street is refusing to say whether he will announce any troop reductions, though he may indicate that he is keen to carry out his original plan of reducing them from 4,000 to 2,500 this spring. The cut was delayed after the anti-Shia militia operation in Basra in March.

Brown flew into Baghdad at around 9am local time. A fleet of RAF Puma helicopters, with machine gun emplacements, flew the Prime Minister's party into the capital's secure 'green zone'. Brown began his day in Baghdad in meetings with Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shia Prime Minister, and Jalal Talabani, the country's Kurdish President. Britain's relations with al-Maliki were strained in March when the Iraqi Prime Minister launched Operation Charge of the Knights to drive Shia militia out of Basra.

Iraqi leaders and some American commanders criticised Britain for reducing the number of troops in Basra, Iraq's second largest city. The Prime Minister then travelled south to Basra airport to visit British troops.

Brown's visit comes on the eve of Barack Obama's first visit to Iraq since he won the Democratic nomination for the White House. Obama's opposition to the Iraq war - and his pledge to withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office - could create space for Brown who is determined to reduce the number of British troops. Brown will meet Obama in London next week.

    Brown sets out plan for UK pull-out from Iraq, O, 20.7.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/jul/20/iraq.iraq






9.45am BST

Gordon Brown visits Baghdad

for talks with Iraqi leaders


Saturday July 19, 2008
Nicholas Watt in Baghdad
This article was first published
on guardian.co.uk on Saturday July 19 2008.
It was last updated at 10:41 on July 19 2008.


Gordon Brown flew into Baghdad this morning for a series of meetings with Iraq's leaders and David Petraeus, the American general who has led the military "surge" over the past year.

Amid tight security, the prime minister flew by RAF Puma helicopter into Baghdad's "green zone" after an overnight flight to the Iraqi capital via Kuwait.

Brown's visit coincided with a trip by the US Democratic presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, to Afghanistan, where he will meet the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

Obama is later due to travel to Iraq and will meet Brown at Downing Street next week, when the pair are expected to discuss Iraqi troop withdrawal.

Brown, who will update MPs on British troop numbers in a statement on Tuesday, is outlining four "building blocks" of progress in Iraq. Once achieved, these could lead to dramatic reductions - and an eventual withdrawal - of British troops, from the country.

They are:

• Stepping up the training of Iraqi security forces so they can eventually take over the work of the 4,000 British troops stationed at Basra airport on "overwatch" duties

• Political progression to the establishment of provincial elections no later than early next year

• Economic reconstruction to build on the growing strength of the Iraqi economy, which is growing at 7% this year compared to 1% last year. Iraq is now producing 2.5m barrels of oil per day - its highest level since the war in 2003

• Creating the conditions for Iraqis to resume control of Basra airport - the base for British troops in Iraq - so that it can return to full civilian use

Brown began his day in Baghdad by meeting Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shia prime minister, and Jalal Talabani, the country's Kurdish president.

Britain's relations with al-Maliki were strained in March when the Iraqi prime minister launched operation Charge of the Knights to drive Shia militia out of Basra. Iraqi leaders and some American commanders criticised Britain for reducing the number of troops in Basra, Iraq's second largest city. Britain has a garrison of 4,000 troops at Basra airport after they withdrew from the city last September.

Brown will aim to put those tensions behind him this morning when he meets Petraeus and al-Maliki. Petraeus made it clear he wanted to move on when he said in May, after an hour's meeting with the prime minister in Downing Street, that Britain had been "invaluable" in providing intelligence, air and logistics support during the Basra operation.

The prime minister and Britain's military commanders believe great progress has been made since March and that lessons have been learnt on all sides. Britain has trained 10,000 Iraqi troops from the 10th and 14th Iraqi divisions.

The American-led surge - and the success against Shia militias in Basra - has also led to a major improvement in security. There have been an average of five rocket attacks on British troops in Basra a month since April, compared with 200 last summer. In 10 of Iraq's 18 provinces, responsibility for security has been passed to the Iraqis. This has happened in all four provinces under British control.

Brown hopes that success in training Iraqi forces will allow him to cut British troop numbers, possibly next year when there is a new president in the White House. Britain had hoped to reduce its troop numbers to 2,500 this spring. But this was postponed after the difficulties of the March offensive.

Petraeus said that Iraqi troops had got off to a "shaky start" during the March Basra operation. He said: "Some were not equal to the task."

The prime minister's visit is timed to allow him to update MPs on Britain's troop commitments before parliament rises for the summer recess on Tuesday. He will tread carefully in what he says after suffering political damage last October when he was accused by the Tories of making politically sensitive comments about troops during a visit to Iraq during the Conservative conference week.

Brown's visit comes on the eve of Obama's first visit to Iraq since he won the Democratic nomination for the White House. Obama's opposition to the Iraq war - and his pledge to withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office - could help Brown reduce the number of British troops.

But Obama has recently begun to "refine" his position on Iraq. The Democratic frontrunner, who will also visit Afghanistan on his trip, said earlier this month that he would conduct a "thorough assessment" of plans to withdraw a combat brigade from Iraq every month.

Brown will meet Obama in London next week when the Democratic candidate ends his tour with a swing through Europe, to Britain, France and Germany. The prime minister is likely to raise one of his main themes for Iraq and the broader Middle East - economic reconstruction.

Britain is taking a close interest in the Basra Investment Promotion Agency and the Basra Development Fund, both designed to stimulate private sector development. Britain is also promoting the renovation of the Umm Quasr port.

Brown had hoped to cut British troops in Iraq to 2,500 by this spring. But the prime minister shelved that - and British troops returned to the centre of Baghdad - when Britain was largely ignored during the anti-Shia militia operation in March.

    Gordon Brown visits Baghdad for talks with Iraqi leaders, G, 19.7.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/19/iraq.military






British soldiers

accused of sickening sex assault

on Iraqi boy, 14

Just days after the MoD has to pay out millions
to the father of a man UK soldiers beat to death,
fresh claims of abuse emerge


Sunday, 13 July 2008
The Independent on Sunday
By Andrew Johnson

British soldiers forced a boy of 14 to carry out an act of oral sex on a fellow male prisoner in Iraq, according to shocking new allegations made about the behaviour of British troops.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday that the Royal Military Police (RMP) have launched an investigation. If the allegations are proved, it would mark a sordid low in the behaviour of British troops in Iraq, and damage further the reputation of Britain in the Middle East.

The victim, now 19, whom The Independent on Sunday has agreed to identify only as Hassan, says he was rounded up with a friend while trying to steal milk cartons from a food distribution centre. He was whipped, beaten and forced to strip naked.

"They made us sit on each other's laps," he said. "They were enjoying humiliating and abusing us, I wished I was dead at this moment. Then they made me sit with Tariq... where I was forced to put Tariq's penis in my mouth. The other two were made to do the same."

Court action is ongoing over a series of allegations surrounding the British base Camp Breadbasket and incidents that took place there in May 2003. There have been allegations of simulated sexual abuse of Iraqis by British troops, but this, if true, would be the first example of actual sexual abuse.

Soldiers rounding up looters as part of an operation codenamed Ali Baba took photographs of prisoners suspended in nets from forklift trucks and others forced to strip naked and adopt simulated sex positions.

The photographs caused outrage around the world when they were published, after a British soldier took them to be developed at a high-street shop. An RMP investigation led to just four soldiers being jailed for up to two years in 2005. A number of the alleged victims, including Hassan, are suing the MoD for damages.

The MoD last Thursday reiterated its official line that abuse was isolated to just a few rogue soldiers, after agreeing to pay nearly £3m compensation to the father of Baha Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist beaten to death by British soldiers while in custody in a separate incident in September 2003, and nine other Iraqis beaten at the same time.

Mazin Younis, of the Iraqi League, who has travelled in Basra collecting witness statements of allegations of abuse, says he now has "more than 80" cases involving allegations against British troops.

"Every single time I uncover a personal story of torture and humiliation in Iraq, I think to myself that I have seen the worst there is," Mr Younis added. "Then I hear the next story.

"Hassan shook with emotion and humiliation as he described to me the treatment he suffered at the hands of British soldiers five years ago. It had taken constant prompting and repeated reminders about the importance of detail before Hassan felt brave enough to describe how he was forced to engage in oral sex with his friend Tariq while their British captors laughed raucously and took photographs."

Such is the culture in Iraq that Hassan fears for his life if identified. It has taken him four years to find the courage to talk about the incident, Mr Younis said. He fled Basra after the incident, giving up his education and staying indoors for fear that someone may recognise him.

Mr Younis added: "There is, of course, no case as bad as a killing or murder. But the fact that this is sexual ... It can lead to suicide because it is so humiliating. Hassan fled Basra because he couldn't face his friends, the people who had seen this.

"He left education and is now unemployed. He has been very, very traumatised. It is the kind of thing that is very difficult to admit to or talk about. No one expected the British to be worse than Saddam Hussein."

Mr Younis said the more than 80 allegations of abuse will form the basis of a series of actions at the European Court of Human Rights, as many of them took place outside British bases and are therefore outside British jurisdiction.

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, has represented many of the Iraqis who allege abuse at the hands of British troops, including Baha Mousa's family and Hassan. "It should be a national scandal that representatives of the British state could have engaged in such appalling behaviour," he said. "I call on the British government to immediately set up an inquiry into this incident."

The Labour MP Harry Cohen also joined calls for an investigation. "We need to have a full inquiry into how we keep prisoners. It obviously needs a complete overhaul," he said.

An MoD spokesman said yesterday: "We can confirm that a new allegation has been received in relation to the alleged abuse of a 14-year-old boy by British soldiers at Camp Breadbasket in May 2003.

"The allegation has been referred to the Royal Military Police, and efforts are in the process of being made to contact the alleged victim as soon as possible.

"All but a handful of the more than 120,000 British troops who have served in Iraq have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment. All allegations of abuse are investigated thoroughly and – where proven – those responsible are punished and the abused are compensated.

"The Army has done a great deal since the cases of abuse related to the death of Baha Mousa in 2003. Procedures and training have been improved. But we are not complacent and continue to demand the very highest standards of conduct from all our troops."




A case to answer

Baha Mousa

Beaten to death in September 2003. Nine others also mistreated. MoD agreed to £2.83m compensation payout last week and will hold a full inquiry into the abuse.

Camp Breadbasket

Prisoners beaten, forced to strip and simulate sex in May 2003. Subject of damages claim by 11 of the victims.

Abu Naji

Twenty Iraqi civilians allegedly executed at British base in Abu Naji in May 2004. Five survivors bringing a claim for damages.

Jabbir Hmoud Kammash

70-year-old tribal leader is bringing action over claims he was hooded and beaten during a raid at his home in Basra in April last year.

Ahmer Jabbar Kareem and Ayad Salim Hanoon

Teenagers forced to swim a canal, resulting in the drowning of Kareem, 15. Kareem's father and Hanoon are pursuing a claim for damages.

Hassan's statement: 'They enjoyed abusing us'

At 7am my friends convinced me to head towards Camp Breadbasket in order to steal dried milk cartons in order to sell them on the black market. The hangars were surrounded by a high fence, though there was an opening in the fence. Next to the fence there was a road, then a river.

When we tried to leave the hangars via the opening in the fence British soldiers chased us. We tried to run away but were caught. Some Iraqis managed to escape arrest. I believe some may have drowned as they were trying to escape the British.

British soldiers caught me and started beating me and others using their vehicle's aerials. They were beating us very harshly. We were led inside the hangars while still being beaten all the way. The beating became stronger when we were inside the camp. I was kept in a hangar along with four other Iraqis.

They ordered us to take off our clothes by gesturing to us to do so. When we refused they continued beating us, so we had to follow their orders. They made us sit on each other's laps. I was with one of the detainees, while another two detainees were made to do the same thing, as in the photos. They were enjoying humiliating and abusing us. I wished I was dead at this moment. Then they made me sit with Tariq as in the other photo, where I was forced to put Tariq's penis in my mouth. The other two were made to do the same.

They locked the hangar while we were inside and left us there with no food or drink till the afternoon of the day after, when they opened the hangar and let us go. Since then I fled Basra altogether as I cannot see Tariq again after what had happened, despite the fact that we were close friends.

    British soldiers accused of sickening sex assault on Iraqi boy, 14, IoS, 13.7.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-soldiers-accused-of-sickening-sex-assault-on-iraqi-boy-14-866482.html






5pm BST update

MoD to pay £3m

to Iraqis tortured by British troops


Thursday July 10, 2008
Matthew Weaver and Richard Norton-Taylor
This article was first published
on guardian.co.uk on Thursday July 10 2008.
It was last updated at 17:02 on July 10 2008.

The government has agreed to pay almost £3m to the family of Baha Mousa and nine other Iraqis tortured by British troops and issued a full apology for the "appalling abuse" they suffered.

The group's lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, said the Treasury solicitors had agreed to pay £2.83m in damages after two days of talks in London.

General Freddie Viggers, the officer dealing with the mediation, issued a full apology to the nine men and Mousa's family.

It said: "The British army apologises for the appalling treatment that you suffered at the hands of the British army. The appalling behaviour of British soldiers made us feel disgusted."

Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, died in September 2003 after being detained in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, along with a group of other Iraqis, on suspicion of being insurgents.

A postmortem found Mousa suffered 93 different injuries, including a broken nose and fractured ribs. It said he died of asphyxia, caused by a stress position that soldiers forced him to maintain.

Daoud Mousa, the victim's father and an Iraqi police colonel, praised the resolution.

"The death of my son is with me every day of my life," he said.

"Today's settlement will ease a little of that pain and will go some way to enabling his children and my grandchildren to rebuild their lives."

In May the MoD bowed to pressure by agreeing to an independent public inquiry into the incident.

Senior lawyer Martyn Day, from Leigh Day & Co, told guardian.co.uk: "Our clients are very pleased indeed to get this resolved, it allows them to get on with their lives. It has been a terrible ordeal for them and even getting them over here for the mediation has been a nightmare.

"The combination of the compensation and the public inquiry means that they feel that justice is at last being done."

The MoD said in a statement: "The settlement is with an admission of liability by the Ministry of Defence which follows on from a statement on 27 March 2008 by the Secretary of State for Defence when substantive breaches of Article 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights were admitted."

"The settlement was accompanied by an apology from the Ministry of Defence."

A spokesman added: "All but a handful of the more than 120,000 British troops who have served in Iraq have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment.

"But this does not excuse that, during 2003 and 2004, a very small minority there committed acts of abuse and we condemn their actions."

At a court martial, six soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, including Colonel Jorge Mendonca, the commanding officer, were acquitted of negligence and abuse over Mousa 's death and the ill-treatment of the other Iraqis. A corporal admitted inhumane treatment, but no one was convicted of killing Mousa.

    MoD to pay £3m to Iraqis tortured by British troops, G, 10.7.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/10/iraq.military






Oil giants return to Iraq

Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total
set to sign deal with Baghdad


Friday, 20 June 2008
The Independent
By Patrick Cockburn

Nearly four decades after the four biggest Western oil companies were expelled from Iraq by Saddam Hussein, they are negotiating their return. By the end of the month, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total will sign agreements with the Baghdad government, Iraq's first with big Western oil firms since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The deals are for repair and technical support in some of the country's largest oilfields, the Oil Ministry in Baghdad said yesterday. The return of "Big Oil" will add to the suspicions of those in the Middle East who claimed that the overthrow of Saddam was secretly driven by the West's desire to gain control of Iraq's oil. It will also be greeted with dismay by many Iraqis who fear losing control of their vast oil reserves.

Iraq's reserves are believed to be second only to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, but their exploitation has long been hampered by UN sanctions, imposed on Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

The major oil companies have been eager to go back to Iraq, but are concerned about their own security and the long-term stability of the country. The two-year no-bid agreements are service agreements that should add another 500,000 barrels of crude a day of output to Iraq's present production of 2.5 million barrels a day (b/d).

The companies have the option of being paid in cash or crude oil for the deals, each of which will reportedly be worth $500m (£250m). For Iraq, the agreements are a way of accessing foreign expertise immediately, before the Iraqi parliament passes a controversial new hydrocarbons law.

But they mean that the four oil companies, which originally formed the Iraq Petroleum Company to exploit Iraqi oil from the 1920s until the industry's nationalisation in 1972, will be well-placed to bid for contracts for the long-term development of these fields. The oilfields affected are some of the largest in Iraq, from Kirkuk in the north to Rumaila, on the border with Kuwait. Although there is oil in northern Iraq, most of the reserves are close to Basra, in the far south.

Since the US invasion, Iraqis have been wary of foreign involvement in their oil industry. Many are convinced that the hidden purpose of the US invasion was to take over Iraqi oil, but the Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussein Shahristani, has said that Iraq will hold on to its natural resources. "If Iraq needs help from international oil companies, they will be invited to co-operate with the Iraqi National Oil Company [Inoc], on terms and conditions acceptable to Iraq, to generate the highest revenue for Iraq".

Inoc's technical expertise has deteriorated sharply during the long years of sanctions. Iraq is currently exporting 2.1 million b/d and is expecting to have oil revenues of $70bn this year, but its government administration is too dysfunctional and corrupt to rebuild the electricity or water supply systems. The government has $50bn in the Federal Bank of New York.

Mr Shahristani has been highly critical of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for auctioning off oil concessions in Iraqi Kurdistan without reference to the oil ministry in Baghdad. In an interview with The Independent last year, he said Inoc would never do business with any oil company that signed up with the KRG, and he also doubted if the oil could be exported without pipelines. "Are they going to carry it out in buckets?" he asked.

Several of the small oil companies who have signed contracts in Kurdistan are hoping that in the long term there will be an agreement between the Kurds and the central government and they will then sell out to the majors at a large profit.

The technical support agreements, as the service agreements are known, may open the door to Iraq for the majors. Mr Shahristani has said that Iraq will open up the same fields for bidding for long-term development projects soon. "We're going to announce the first licensing round by the end of this month or early next month," he said.

The high price of oil means that Iraq is not under immediate pressure to maximise its oil revenues. The Iraqi parliament has suspected anything which looks like giving foreign companies ownership of Iraq's oil through a production sharing agreement.

The nationalisation of Iraq's oil is one the few acts of Saddam Hussein's long years in power which is still highly popular, and Iraqi members of parliament are fearful of anything that looks like back-door privatisation in the interests of foreigners.

Big four have history of control

For the four oil giants, the new agreements will bring them back to a country where they have a long history. BP, Exxon Mobil, Total and Shell were co-owners of a British, American and French consortium that kept Iraq's oil reserves in foreign control for more than 40 years.

The Iraq Petroleum Company (once the Turkish Petroleum Company) was formed in 1912 by oil companies eager to grab the resources in parts of the Ottoman Empire.

The company was formalised in 1928 and each of the four shareholders had a 23.75 per cent share of all the oil produced. The final 5 per cent went to Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian businessman.

In 1931, an agreement was signed with Iraq, giving the company complete control over the oi fields of Mosul in return for annual royalties. After Saddam's coup in 1958, nationalisation came in 1972.

    Oil giants return to Iraq, I, 20.6.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/oil-giants-return-to-iraq-851036.html






Mother who defied the killers

is gunned down

Five weeks ago Leila Hussein told The Observer the chilling story of how her husband had killed their 17-year-old daughter over her friendship with a British soldier in Basra. Now Leila, who had been in hiding, has been murdered - gunned down in cold blood. Afif Sarhan in Basra and Caroline Davies report on the final act of a brutal tragedy


Sunday June 1 2008
The Observer
Afif Sarhan and Caroline Davies
This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday June 01 2008 on p8 of the News section.
It was last updated at 00:00 on June 01 2008.


Leila Hussein lived her last few weeks in terror. Moving constantly from safe house to safe house, she dared to stay no longer than four days at each. It was the price she was forced to pay after denouncing and divorcing her husband - the man she witnessed suffocate, stamp on, then stab their young daughter Rand in a brutal 'honour' killing for which he has shown no remorse.

Though she feared reprisals for speaking out, she really believed that she would soon be safe. Arrangements were well under way to smuggle her to the Jordanian capital, Amman. In fact, she was on her way to meet the person who would help her escape when a car drew up alongside her and two other women who were walking her to a taxi. Five bullets were fired: three of them hit Leila, 41. She died in hospital after futile attempts to save her.

Her death, on 17 May, is the shocking denouement to a tragedy which had its origins in an innocent friendship between her student daughter, Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, and a blond, 22-year-old British soldier known only as Paul.

The two had met while Rand, an English student at Basra University, was working as a volunteer helping displaced families and he was distributing water. Although their friendship appears to have involved just brief, snatched conversations over four months, Rand had confided her romantic feelings for Paul to her best friend, Zeinab, 19.

She died, still a virgin, four months after she had last seen him when her father, Abdel-Qader Ali, 46, discovered that she had been seen talking 'to the enemy' in public. She had brought shame on his honour, was his defence, and he had to cleanse his family name. Despite openly admitting the murder, he has received no punishment.

It was two weeks after Rand's death on 16 March that a grief-stricken Leila, unable to bear living under the same roof as her husband, found the strength to leave him. She had been beaten and had had her arm broken. It was a courageous move. Few women in Iraq would contemplate such a step. Leila told The Observer in April: 'No man can accept being left by a woman in Iraq. But I would prefer to be killed than sleep in the same bed as a man who was able to do what he did to his own daughter.'

Her words were to prove prescient. Leila turned to the only place she could, a small organisation in Basra campaigning for the rights of women and against 'honour' killings. Almost immediately she began receiving threats - notes calling her a 'prostitute' and saying she deserved to die like her daughter.

Even her sons Hassan, 23, and Haydar, 21, whom she claimed aided their father in their sister's killing, disowned her. Meanwhile, her husband, a former government employee, escaped any charges, and even told The Observer that police had congratulated him on what he had done.

It is not known who killed Leila. All that is known is that she was staying at the house of 'Mariam', one of the women's rights campaigners, whose identity The Observer has agreed not to reveal. On the morning of 17 May, they were joined by another volunteer worker and set off to meet 'a contact' who was to help Leila travel to Amman, where she would be taken in by an Iraqi family.

'Leila was anxious, but she was also happy at having the chance to leave Iraq,' said Mariam. 'Since the death of her daughter, her own life was at serious risk. And this was a great opportunity for her to leave the country and to fight for Iraqi women's rights.

'She had not been able to sleep the night before. I stayed up talking to her about her plans after she arrived in Amman. I gave her some clothes to take with her and she was packing the only bag she had. She was too excited to sleep.'

Mariam said that when she awoke Leila had already prepared breakfast, cleaned her house and even baked a date cake as a thank-you for the help she had been given. After the arrival of 'Faisal', the volunteer (whose identity is also being protected), the three left the house at 10.30am and started walking to the end of the street to get a taxi. They had walked less than 50 metres when they heard a car drive up fast and then gunshots rang out. The attack, said by witnesses to have been carried out by three men, was over in minutes. Leila was hit by three bullets. Mariam was hit in her left arm and Faisal in her left leg. 'I didn't realise I had been shot for a few seconds, because as I heard the gunfire I saw Leila falling to the ground and saw blood pouring from her head,' said Mariam. 'I was so shocked, I didn't immediately feel the pain.'

Two men ran from their homes to help. They rushed Leila to hospital and a passing taxi took the other two. But Leila died at 3.20pm, despite several operations to save her. As she lay in her own hospital bed receiving treatment, Mariam said that she heard someone saying that Leila had been shot in the head. But there were other mutterings that were clearly audible. 'I could hear people talking on the corridors and the only thing that they had to say was that Leila was wrong for defending her daughter's mistakes and that her death was God's punishment.

'In that minute I just had complete hatred in my heart for those who had killed her.'

Police said the incident was a sectarian attack and that there was nothing to link Leila's death to her family. 'Her ex-husband was not in Basra when it happened. We found out he was visiting relatives in Nassiriya with his two sons,' said Hassan Alaa, a senior officer at the local police station in Basra. 'We believe the target was the women activists, rather than Mrs Hussein, and that she was unlucky to be in that place at that time.'

It is plausible. Campaigners for women's' rights are not acceptable to many sections of Iraqi society, especially in Basra where militias have partial control in some districts and impose strict laws on locals, including what clothing they should wear and what religious practice they should follow.

Since February 2006, two other activists from the same women's organisation have been killed in the city. One of them was reportedly raped before being shot. The other, the only man working for the non-governmental organisation (NGO), and a father of five who was responsible for the organisation's finances, was shot five months ago.

There could be many with a grudge against such organisations. However, Mariam believes Leila was targeted, pointing out she had been hit by three bullets. 'When we were shot, they focused on Leila, not us,' she said.

Since the attack the NGO has stopped its work in Basra. 'We daren't answer the phones because we have received so many threats since we gave our support to Leila's case,' said Mariam. 'Most of our members are preparing to leave the city and even Iraq if they can raise the money.'

A single mother since her husband was killed for refusing to join a militia, she too intends to move when she can. Faisal, who also survived her injuries, is still suffering post-surgical infection. She preferred not to speak, but her mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'My daughter is very shocked at what happened, and my two grandsons can't stop crying since they saw her in hospital.'

Leila's burial was arranged within hours of her death by the husband of one of her cousins and Mariam's father.

The Observer visited Rand's father and two brothers at their Basra home, but they refused to talk beyond Hassan proclaiming his father's innocence. When asked if he would be visiting his mother's grave, he shrugged: 'Maybe in the future.'

Leila was an orphan, raised by an uncle who died in the Shia uprising against Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s. Hamida Alaa, 68, a friend of the uncle, said: 'The poor woman was killed and now her name and history is buried with her. No one wants to speak about it. She is just one more woman killed in our country who has already been forgotten by the local society.'

In the last days of her life, Leila was suffering from the pressure of having gone against her husband. 'She was sleeping with the help of sedatives,' said Mariam. 'She would wake up at night with terrible nightmares, even dreaming of being suffocated as her daughter was. She had been threatened so many times and that's why she was so scared. Her indignation over Rand's death is what led her to her own coffin. Their history ends here. But Leila was a hero. A woman who was strong enough to say no to Iraqi men's bad attitudes. Sadly most Iraqi women do not have the same strength and they will stay in their homes.'

Mariam has moved out of her home. But within hours of speaking to The Observer a close friend went to her new address to deliver a message that had been left for her at her front door. It read: 'Death to betrayers of Islam who don't deserve God's forgiveness. Speaking less you will live more.' She believes it was sent by Leila's killers.

'They want this story to be buried with Leila,' she said. 'But I cannot close my eyes to all this.'

    Mother who defied the killers is gunned down, O, 1.6.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/01/iraq






Girl carrying explosives

blown up in Baghdad 'suicide attack'


Wednesday May 14 2008
James Orr and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Wednesday May 14 2008.
It was last updated at 17:51 on May 14 2008.


A young girl carrying explosives that killed her, an Iraqi captain and injured four soldiers was blown up by remote control, officials said today.

The incident happened as she approached an Iraqi command post in Youssifiyah, south Baghdad, earlier this morning.

Iraqi army Lieutenant Ahmed Ali confirmed that the girl, who had hidden explosives strapped to her, was the cause of the blast.

Local authorities immediately imposed a curfew in the area while US troops began searching for those responsible, he said.

"The bomber was detonated by remote control, killing Captain Wassem al-Maamouri and injuring four soldiers," Ali added.

Major John Hall from the US army said: "I can confirm that a female suicide bomber attacked an Iraqi army position."

No further details were released.

Senior US commanders have said that a recent increase in attacks has shown that al-Qaida remains a threat in western Iraq.

Military sources say that a group of al-Qaida fighters recently infiltrated the area and raided the homes of 11 Iraqi police officers before beheading them and one of their sons.

Marine Major General John Kelly, the commander of US forces in Anbar province, said it appeared the insurgents had crossed from the Syrian border.

The men had then talked their way through a checkpoint and walked through the town grabbing police individually.

"Al-Qaida is not defeated. It's an ideology," he said. "Al-Qaida is still operational but on a smaller scale."

Meanwhile in western Baghdad today, a car bomb detonated next to a convoy of vehicles carrying an official from the mostly Sunni Islamic party.

Police said Ayad al-Samarrie was not hurt in the explosion but that one civilian was killed and 20 others wounded, including four guards.

Sadr City has also seen continued skirmishes despite a recent ceasefire agreement. Hospital officials said that fighting had left five dead and 22 wounded today alone.

"The ceasefire is still active and we are still at square one," said Major General Qassim al-Mousawi, an Iraqi army spokesman.

"Nothing has been achieved so far, as security forces are still waiting for the Sadrist leaders to prepare the appropriate atmosphere to enable our security forces to enter Sadr City to do their duties."

US military spokesman, Major General Kevin Bergner, said that although American commanders around Sadr City had reported a drop in violence, some fighting did persist.

"Coalition forces would welcome the cessation of attacks by criminal groups in and around Sadr City," he said.

Girl carrying explosives blown up in Baghdad 'suicide attack', G, 14.5.2008,




home Up