Five Iraqis were arrested yesterday after a massive pre-dawn assault on the city of Basra by a force of more than 1,000 UK and Danish troops.
At 0300 GMT a column of dozens of armoured Land Rovers and 48 Warrior tanks supported by jet fighters approached the northern outskirts of Basra.
As it approached the Kamatali Bridge, it was met by a hail of fire from resistance fighters armed with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns.
Forced to a halt, the British forces called up the RAF for support while a US F-15 jet cleared the way across the bridge.
At the same time, a landing craft attack by a force of 100 UK troops along the Shatt al-Arab waterway also came under heavy fire.
Reaching the Hartha area, ground troops advanced along narrow alleyways on foot, accompanied by puppet Iraqi forces.
Five houses were raided and five Iraqis were arrested, who the British Army claimed were directly involved in insurgency attacks on British forces.
UK forces spokesman Major Charles Burbage claimed ‘a large stash of weapons’ were found.
He claimed that ‘we achieved what we set out to do’ but added: ‘There’s still a long way to go. It won’t be the last strike operation that we’re going to conduct.’
Burbage also claimed that no coalition troops or civilians were injured.
He was ‘relieved’ to be able ‘to say the operation was a success’. British forces returned to their bases well outside the city of Basra.
• Six children and eight women were among at least 32 people killed in a US air raid northwest of Baghdad, yesterday, according to Iraqi police and local officials.
Iraqi police said that US aircraft bombed two homes near Thar lake, Salaheddin province, in the early hours.
Thirty-two civilians were believed to be inside and at least 25 bodies were pulled from the rubble, eight were women and six children.
• Second news story
CONFORM OR ELSE BLAIR TELLS MINE
PRIME Minister Blair yesterday delivered his warning to minorities to ‘conf-form or don’t come here’.
He said that people entering the UK must be prepared to ‘be tolerant or not become part of British society.’
In a speech at Downing Street, Blair said tolerance is ‘what makes Britain, Britain’ and warned ‘we must be ready to defend this attitude’.
He threatened: ‘So conform to it; or don’t come here. We don’t want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed.’
Blair however could not find a way of reconciling his support for ‘multiculturalism’ and his instructions to conform.
He said: ‘It is not that we need to dispense with multicultural Britain. On the contrary, we should continue celebrating it,’ adding, however, that there is a ‘duty’ to integrate.
Announcing a crackdown he said to get funding, bodies would have to prove they aimed to promote community integration.
It is important to ‘demonstrate and underline what is meant by integration in modern Britain’, he said.
Blair said ‘Britain’ has ‘to re-assert the duty to integrate, to stress what we hold in common and to say: these are the shared boundaries within which we all are obliged to live, precisely in order to preserve our right to our own different faiths, races and creeds’.
The bombings in London on July 7 last year threw the whole concept of a multicultural Britain ‘into sharp relief’, said Blair, warning it goes hand in hand with a ‘duty’ to share ‘essential values’.