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British, Iraqi military destroy Basra police station

British, Iraqi military destroy Basra police station

British and Iraqi forces stormed and destroyed the headquarters of the serious crimes unit in Basra yesterday after learning prisoners were about to be executed, the British military said.
Calling the city's police station a center of "criminal enterprise," British military spokesman Captain Tane Dunlop said the building had been demolished with explosives after the assault by around 1,000 troops.
Dunlop said the unit had been taking the law into its own hands. "Crimes unit? That's pretty much what it does, rather than prevent," he told Reuters.
British forces recently seized senior and mid-level members of the unit which has long been accused of involvement in murders, attacks on coalition forces and kidnappings in the southern oil city.
The British military had planned to disband the unit but decided to act on Monday after learning some of the prisoners inside the station faced execution, said Major Charlie Burbridge, another British military spokesman.
Burbridge said the troops found 76 detainees in the station, many of whom had injuries. "But we don't know if it was torture at this stage," he said.
Dunlop said around 1,000 troops staged the raid. They carried out medical assessments of the detainees before transferring them to another police station. All were suspected criminals.
"We used explosives to put the building beyond use so it can no longer be used by the criminal enterprise," Dunlop said. "We had clear directions from the prime minister and governor (Mohammed) Waili to dissolve the unit."
Television footage showed most of the building reduced to rubble with at least one police vehicle crushed and one lying upside down.
Dunlop said it was "certainly possible" that Shiite militias had control over Jamiat station instead of Iraq's Interior Ministry. No arrests were made during the operation.
Iraqi security forces are believed to be heavily infiltrated by militants, primarily shiite militiamen who are often accused by Sunnis of carrying out extra-judicial killings against the minority community.
The police station, one of the biggest in Basra, was where two plain-clothes British soldiers were briefly held in September 2005 before being freed in a raid by their comrades.