Tuesday, April 28, 2009
From TOM NEWTON DUNN
In Basra, Iraq
BRITISH forces have been praised for their outstanding success in bringing peace to Basra — as they prepare to leave it for good.
The Sun watched yesterday as Our Boys played table football with Iraqi teenagers on the site of one of their most bitter battles. They were at a market where the hated Jameat police station stood. British troops surrounded it in September 2005 when cops — infiltrated by militia — kidnapped two SAS troopers.
One soldier emerged ablaze from his Warrior armoured vehicle after it was pelted with petrol bombs. Amazingly, he survived.
The troops finally seized the station on Christmas Day 2006 — freeing 178 prisoners. Many had been tortured by the fanatics. Royal Engineers later blew the two-storey building to pieces.
Sergeant Majors Jules King and Doug Farthing won the footie 5-1 yesterday. WO2 King, 37 — finishing his third tour in Iraq — said: “We’ve won back the support of the locals again. It makes all the sacrifice and hard work worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, a joint British-Iraqi army foot patrol was met with waves and smiles. Kids rushed up to show their English homework. Our Boys have ditched hard helmets and some no longer wear body armour.
The 4,000 remaining troops of 20 Armoured Brigade, have not fired a shot in anger since arriving in November. Bases have been rocketed just three times, compared to 20 a day in 2007. The turnaround came after a four-day battle by Brits and Iraqis to drive out militias in March last year.
American Lt Col “AJ” Johnson has taken charge of mentoring Iraqi troops as Our Boys prepare to leave in a few weeks. He said: “The British public should be proud.”