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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 June, 2003, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Business as usual for British forces in Iraq
by Peter Greste
in Basra, southern Iraq

British soldiers on patrol
British soldiers will continue with their non-aggresive approach
A patrol from the reconnaissance platoon of the Kings Regiment drives through a suburb of Basra, a blisteringly hot city in southern Iraq where the British have based their headquarters.

It's midday and the temperature is 52 degrees Centigrade.

"What we have is reports of looters tearing up copper cables from under the ground," says Captain Matt Adams from Buckinghamshire, explaining the patrol's mission.

"We're going to go down and stop them doing it, because obviously, if they don't stop destroying the infrastructure of the country they'll never recover."

Soon they arrive at the scene, an abandoned factory with a few local villagers trying to keep the looters at bay.

The soldiers are lightly armed and, as usual, they have ditched the heavy body armour and helmets - despite Tuesday's killing of six British military police just over 100 miles to the north.

Children wave to British forces
Many Iraqis have welcomed the British

The British have carved a niche for themselves with this kind of work.

Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, all places where they've refined internal security.

Despite the tragic and unexpected murder of the six MPs, their commander Major General Peter Wall says that to change the way they operate now would only undo all the good work of the past two months.

"Yes there are a number of incidents that cause concern, that would be way above the norm in a civilised western country," he says.

"The civilised Iraqi people recognise that and they're very keen to ensure we're in a position to stamp that out as soon as possible."

Captain Adams too says he hasn't felt the need for changes.

"We've not had too many problems at all, so we don't want to up the ante here and appear more aggressive than we need to.

"And actually the people in this area, 95% of the time, are glad to see us."

Massive shock

The patrol sets up a vehicle checkpoint; random searches for unauthorised weapons are a part of the daily routine.

Another member of the patrol is Nathan Davidson, a Captain with a wife and two daughters.

"When this incident happened up north it was a massive shock, and it woke us up to exactly what we're doing here," he says.

"You do need to keep your wits about you."

Tuesday's bloody killings were the first British combat casualties since the war ended two months ago.

The authorities here warn it might not be a one-off but they see no reason to alter a strategy that has so far all but wiped out local violence.




SEE ALSO:
Iraq killings 'will not affect patrols'
26 Jun 03  |  Middle East
US marine dies in ambush rescue
26 Jun 03  |  Middle East
British troops reopen Basra prison
03 Jun 03  |  Middle East
Blair gets military welcome
29 May 03  |  Politics



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