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Friday, August 25, 2006

Our "Great Allies" Iraqis loot base after British leave

By HAIDAR HANI, Al AP Writer Fri Aug 25, 10:46 AM ET AMARAH, Iraq - Looters ravaged a former British base Friday, a day after the camp was turned over to Iraqi troops, taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes, authorities said. About 1,200 British troops had been stationed at Camp Abu Naji in Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and the base had come under almost daily attack. The troops pulled out Thursday to redeploy along the border withIran to crack down on weapons smuggling. Shortly after the troops pulled out, Iraqi police managed to disperse looters by firing warning shots into the air, said Dhaffar Jabbar, spokesman for the Maysan provincial governor's office. But the looters returned Friday. "The British forces left Abu Naji and the locals started looting everything," 1st Lt. Rifaat Taha Yaseen of the Iraqi army's 10th Division told AP Television News. "They took everything from the buildings." Men, some with their faces covered, ripped corrugated metal from roofs, carried off metal pipes and backed trucks into building entrances to load them with wooden planks. Several Iraqi soldiers, apparently unarmed, did not seem to make any effort to stop the looting. "There are only few soldiers at Abu Naji camp. Some of the residents were carrying weapons so they (the soldiers) did not want bloodshed and with such a big number, they cannot stop them," Jabbar said. Lt. Tahseen Abid Ali said the Iraqi army had taken up positions in a corner of the camp, but was unable to stop the looting. Another officer, 1st Lt. Ammar Karim Ahmed, said the army had seen "hundreds (of looters) coming toward the camp." "First of all, we tried to stop them, but we saw some them were armed and our forces did not have enough people to stop them," he said. When asked by a reporter why he was taking material from the base, one man, who refused to give his name, said: "This is war loot and we are allowed to take it." On Thursday, Iraqi authorities had complained that the British withdrawal had caught them by surprise. "British forces evacuated the military headquarters without coordination with the Iraqi forces," Jabbar said. The British military rejected the assertion. "The handover of the Camp Abu Naji was coordinated with the Amarah authorities 24 hours in advance," said spokesman Maj. Charlie Burbridge. "It was understood that the governor was likely to use the camp as a police training camp," he said in an e-mail Thursday, adding that Iraqi forces had secured the base after the British soldiers left. Burbridge said Thursday that British authorities could not comment on early reports of looting "because by that stage the camp was the property of the Maysan authorities and Iraqi Forces were in attendance." Read the Rest Here


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