Anorak News | The Line Of Fire

The Line Of Fire

by | 20th, September 2005

‘“RIOTERS set fire to British troops,” says the Telegraph’s front page. Beneath that headline there’s a shot of a British soldier in flames leaping for his life from a Warrior armoured vehicle.

Can words alone put out the fires of hatred?

The war in Iraq is back on the front pages, and it makes for a sobering, appalling and captivating read.

But what triggered this attack by rioters in Basra? Wasn’t this city the place about which British troops did their rounds in soft berets? Weren’t they cheered when they first entered the streets?

This was no friendly fire. Things have changed in Iraq’s second city, and to the chant of “Murderers out”, the Telegraph puts the attack on the British soldiers in some kind of context.

The paper says the violence broke out after two members of the Special Air Service, the fabled SAS, were arrested in the city by a militia loyal to the Iraqi government.

The two men were sent to a jail in Basra after they were stopped at a checkpoint. The story goes that they identified themselves but shots were fired when the local police tried to arrest them. (The Times hears that in the exchange of gunfire an Iraqi policeman was killed.)

So the two men were taken to prison. They were photographed, and on the front page of the Times readers see the pair sat in jail looking bandaged and sweaty. Plans were then set in action to free the men.

The first rescue attempt resulted in the awful scenes of the Warrior vehicle being bombed and a British soldier in flames.

Time for Plan B. And for the Telegraph to hear the Ministry of Defence issue a denial that in the course of this raid tanks had deliberately broken a prison wall. A wall was “damaged” says the paper. No more than that.

But the Times hears a different version of events. As the start of its coverage says: “British forces used six tanks to smash their way into Basra’s main jail.”

Oh? “After the walls were breached, troops stormed inside to locate and rescue their colleagues.” They were successful. The two unnamed men are now free. As are around 150 unnamed Iraqi prisoners.

Inside the Times, readers can see a graphic of how the ram raid played out. And learn that the result of the violence is, reportedly, two Iraqis dead and three British soldiers seriously injured.

But we can’t be truly certain what occurred. Perhaps until either or both of the SAS soldiers at the centre of the day’s activities write their books, we never will know the truth.

All we do know is that things are not going perfectly. Not everyone in Basra likes the British troops being there.

But this is an armed conflict, and such is the way with live ammunition and fighting, people are always going to get hurt.

And that includes British soldiers…’

Posted: 20th, September 2005 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink