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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 March 2006, 14:31 GMT
Video diary: Corbin on the frontline
Three years after witnessing UK troops enter southern Iraq, Panorama's Jane Corbin returns to find out how Iraqis are living with the British forces.

In a series of video diaries, Corbin chronicles the highs and lows of her trip as an embedded reporter with the British Army in the Basra region.


Corbin was in Iraq when the British first seized Basra in April 2003. She witnessed first hand how UK troops were welcomed by Basra's predominantly Shia population.

Jane Corbin

They had suffered over three decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party. So they were all too eager to see the back of the Iraqi leader.

The British were seen as liberators back then but three years on, as they consider their exit strategy, Corbin reflects on what legacy they will leave behind.


In the early hours of 22 February 2006, militants in the Iraqi town of Samarra enter the al-Askari shrine, one of Shia Islam's holiest sites, and set off a bomb.

Jane Corbin

The blast severely damages the structure and destroys its famous golden dome. The shrine is one of two tombs in Samarra for revered Shia imams, which attract pilgrims from around the world.

The attack is almost certainly intended to raise existing tensions between Iraq's majority Shia and minority Sunni populations.

Panorama was spending that day with Zulu Company of the Royal Fusiliers, who entered Basra in 2003.

Corbin finds herself confined to a British base in the heart of Basra surrounded by thousands of angry Shia protesters.


The al-Askari bombing sparks the most deadly series of sectarian reprisals in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Iraqi government estimates that some 379 people were killed in the first week alone. Religious clerics were murdered, and mosques torched across the country.

Jane Corbin

In Basra, two mosques are bombed and buildings belonging to the highest religious body for Basra's Sunni community - are set on fire.

Militants dressed as police officers storm a prison and execute 11 suspected Sunni militants.

Corbin reflects on that day's events, and what they could mean for Iraq's future.


The government declares three days of national mourning following the al-Askari shrine bombing. Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appeals for calm.

Jane Corbin

This does not prevent thousands of people demonstrating in the streets of Basra.

Panorama accompanies the British army as it carries out a night patrol to check out the situation on the streets, at a potentially volatile time.

Corbin is surprised to discover that the troops' reception is not at all what she had expected.


Corbin records her video diary from beneath a table after the alarm goes at the Basra air base where she is staying as the base comes under attack.

Jane Corbin

Mortar attacks on military bases in Iraq are a routine occurrence. The situation is at its worst in al-Amara, where militants fire multiple mortars onto the base on many nights.

There are also regular mortar attacks in Basra. In fact, the base where Corbin was staying was attacked on two of the four nights that the Panorama team was there.


The Panorama team was with two British soldiers a few minutes before they were killed by a roadside bomb in Amara, becoming the 102nd and 103rd British soldiers killed in the Iraq conflict.

Jane Corbin

The situation is particularly sensitive in al-Amara, which has become a hotbed of anti-British violence, and many servicemen have been killed there in the last two years.

Corbin assesses the security situation in this volatile Iraqi city, after a fraught day.


The Panorama team concludes its trip to Iraq after spending ten days embedded with the army. They experienced the realities on the ground as British soldiers see and live them on a daily basis.

Jane Corbin

They found a very different Iraq to what the public back home might have imagined.

In general, the British troops, she says, have succeeded winning over the local population through their restrained and respectful manner.

Corbin records her last thoughts, minutes before she boards a plane to leave Basra.

Old practices die hard in Basra
18 Mar 06 |  Panorama
In pictures: Iraq three years on
18 Mar 06 |  In Pictures
'Hotbed of anti-British violence'
01 Mar 06 |  Panorama

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