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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
UK troops battle to secure Basra
Injured man in Basra hospital which is suffering shortages
Basra hospital is suffering shortages
UK forces are continuing to face some resistance on the outskirts of Basra as they try to completely secure the southern Iraqi city ahead of aid shipments.

British soldiers are also trying to restore order among the civilian population after three days of looting and lawlessness.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the House of Commons that among the measures being considered for Basra was the despatch of British police advisers.

They would help soldiers and local figures to restore order, a similar tactic to that used in Bosnia and Sierra Leone.

British military spokesman Colonel Neil Peckham told the BBC dealing with crime and looting could not be the priority until the fighting had completely finished.

We're still involved in war fighting, there are still firefights going on... the looting will be dealt with as and when we can
Colonel Neil Peckham
"There has been looting.... we see this essentially as a distribution of wealth. It has not been wild looting in terms of risk to life.

"We're still involved in war fighting, there are still firefights going on, so that is our main effort at the moment, to deal with that and to quell the remaining enemy forces.

"The looting will be dealt with as and when we can turn our attention to that."

The commander of the UK forces in the Gulf, Air Marshall Brian Burridge, said the looting had almost stopped.

During a drive through all areas of the city he got the impression the city had "stabilised", he said.

Loud explosions

"There was next to no looting taking place... and it had that air about a place that had shaken off the first impression of a huge change, and was now beginning to grope its way back into normality," he told the BBC.

Aid agencies are waiting until the city is secure and order restored before they begin work to bring in food and solve the water problem.

TACKLING LAW AND ORDER
Looters in Basra

The BBC's Clive Myrie, with troops in Basra, said looting had quietened down but soldiers faced other problems.

"We are not seeing as much looting as there has been in the last couple of days, but as far as the security of the city is concerned and the mopping-up of any Iraqi forces that may be still be operating on the outskirts of the city - that is ongoing."

He said he had heard three very loud explosions and seen huge plumes of smoke just south of his position in central Basra.

"This could be Iraqi weapons dumps that British forces have found but it could also be British forces firing mortars at Iraqi positions.

"Local people are a bit surprised. They see the outward appearance of British control.

Gun amnesty

"But a lot of local people are wondering 'why are they still fighting Iraqis on the outskirts if we've got the tanks in the centre of the city, why is the security situation not better than it is?'."

They are grateful for what the British have done but now they want to get on and do it themselves
Lieutenant Iain Lamont
The British have offered a gun amnesty in an effort to restore order to Basra.

An "amnesty pit" has been created close to one British compound in the hope residents would dump their firearms.

Locals have told British soldiers that they want only minimum help from coalition forces, and some have even urged the troops to pull out.

Lieutenant Iain Lamont, who held a meeting with emerging community leaders, said: "They are grateful for what the British have done but now they want to get on and do it themselves.

"There is a lot of dialogue and they were very forthcoming about how they want to run the community and how they feel it should be policed.

"While they are desperate for our support in the initial period they want to establish their own systems of security."

One Iraqi resident, Moaed Abd Alih, a 23-year-old student, went further and called for the British to leave.

"We need the British to pull out now they have got rid of Saddam to let us live our lives in peace. We want to rule ourselves."




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