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Friday, September 23, 2005
  Looks like the Brit's are going to have to Rotor-Rooter Basra
Cleric's growing power leaves British isolated - World - smh.com.au: "British troops in Basra looked more isolated than ever after the province's Governor, once a crucial ally, withdrew all co-operation until he received an apology for the prison raid that freed two SAS soldiers.

About 500 Iraqi police officers and civilians chanting: 'No, No to Occupation' marched through the southern city's streets as the Governor, Mohamed al-Wa'eli, again condemned Britain's 'barbaric act of aggression'.

The withdrawal of co-operation was a unanimous decision taken at an emergency meeting of the Basra provincial council late on Wednesday.

A source in Basra's provincial government said the Governor had little choice but to take a vehement anti-British stance after recent political manoeuvrings had left Mr Wa'eli beholden to the Mahdi army militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The British Army says it staged Monday's raid to free the two men after police handed them over to Mahdi militiamen instead of obeying orders from Baghdad to free them.

Police and government sources say up to 90 per cent of Basra's police force has been infiltrated by the private armies of religious and political factions. The two men were held in a building belonging to the shadowy internal affairs department.

Until the northern spring, internal affairs was controlled by the Badr Brigade, a militia tied to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Shiite party in Iraq's ruling coalition.

But a senior official in Basra's police force said the agency had effectively been taken over by the Mahdi army, Iraq's most radical Shiite armed group."
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