Monday, September 03, 2007

The Brits Withdraw Their last Troops From Basra

The British retreat is now officially underway, as the 500-strong 4th Rifle Battalion, the final contingent of British troops left in Basra withdrew to join what's left of their fellows hunkered down in their remaining base next to the Basra airport outside the city. Maybe they'll make one of those stirring pipe tunes out of it...`Basra Quick March' or something.

They left in the dead of night, around 10pm local time, when a convoy of tanks, Land Rovers and armoured personnel carriers headed towards the main UK base at Basra airport was seen by the locals.

Most of those locals, and the Iraqi media credited Moqtada al-Sadr's Iran backed Mahdi Army and the other Shiite militias with forcing the Brits out.

Abu Ahmad, 36, an aide in Mookie's e Basra office was quoted by the London Times, saying: "This victory happened with the help of Allah and all those who gave their lives to achieve this goal, the nightly attacks on the palace with mortars and shells, under Moqtada's leadership."

Apparently a lot of the inhabitants of Basra agreed. "The withdrawal of British forces was a success for the Mahdi army and a victory for the people of Basra. It is time to start a new chapter and rebuild our city," said Zuher Abid Ali, 41, an engineer.

"We're very happy because there are no more (foreign) troops in Basra," added Sami Ahmed, 31, a shopkeeper. "The militias forced British troops to leave."

Of course, that happiness could be short lived, with three militias fighting for control of the area and its oil reserves.

It's pretty obvious that the Brits took advantage of al-Sadr's six month ceasefire to get out of Basra while the getting was good. They'll probably be gone from Iraq completely before the month is out, barring unforseen events.

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