Welsh Guards seek justice for Redcap killings

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Tommy, Dec 12, 2004.

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  1. Welsh Guards seek justice for Redcap killings
    By Toby Harnden in Amara
    (Filed: 12/12/2004)

    British soldiers are preparing to seize back the rebel Iraqi town of Majar al-Kabir, largely off limits since the murder of six Redcap military policemen there last year.

    Units of the Welsh Guards are poised to re-enter the town, which is 100 miles northeast of Basra, as part of a tough counter-insurgency strategy before next month's Iraqi elections.

    A Welsh Guardsman on patrol
    Majar al-Kabir is a haven for bandits and fighters

    They plan to crack down on Shia fighters while seeking to persuade local leaders that their co-operation will enable much-needed improvements to the town's infrastructure.

    Lt Col Ben Bathurst, who commands the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards in Maysan province, said: "Tribal fighting there is out of hand. The level of threat is too much for the police to cope with, largely because they all live there and are influenced by intimidation."

    Last week, Lt Col Bathurst's Iraqi aide and translator, who accompanied him in discussions with local leaders, privately warned one hardliner who opposed British entry that he had no option but to agree, or face Majar al-Kabir being "wiped off the map".

    The town – known as MAK to the Army – revels in its notoriety. Home to 85,000 Shia, it has become a "no go" zone for coalition forces. Yet there is unfinished business there. Six suspected members of the mob that killed the military policemen in June 2003 are at large and have alleged links to candidates in next month's elections.

    Campaigning Maysan-style features candidates bombing each other. "Every single conversation here ends with a request for a pistol," said Lt Col Bathurst.

    A stronghold of the Mahdi army, a poor militia loyal to the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Majar al-Kabir is also a haven for bandits and fighters opposed to the presence of British soldiers in Iraq.

    It is a potential flashpoint for any uprising after the elections if, as expected, Sadr's candidates receive few votes in the region near the Iranian border.

    Lt Col Bathurst said that some local leaders have recently pressed for British forces to be sent in, and he was seeking to persuade others that such a move would help reconstruction projects, including electricity and sanitation.

    "I have got to build consensus to start with and try to separate the majority of people from the insurgents," he said.

    He made clear that the Welsh Guards would do whatever was needed to assist bringing those behind the Redcaps' killings to justice. "It is a particularly British trait that murder cases are never forgotten," he said.

    Like South Armagh, where Lt Col Bathurst was a company commander, Maysan province has a history of rebellion and independence. Majar al-Kabir, which sees itself as the Fallujah of the south-east, has parallels with Crossmaglen.

    "There are definitely people coming out of MAK to conduct attacks," said Lt Col Bathurst.

    Another Welsh Guards officer, Capt Tom Eastman, said: "We're isolating MAK by going into the towns around it. We're dictating the pace and establishing a foothold outside. It's never good to have a feeling of 'no go' areas."

    He added that offering possible reconstruction projects to sheikhs and imams was key to minimising violence when soldiers enter the town. "It's almost forcing them to come grovelling to us, which is a way of diffusing it rather than going in with all wagons blazing."

    Not every project sought by local leaders wins British Army backing, however. "One of their recent requests was for rebuilding the town walls," said Lt Col Bathurst. "We declined."

    British military thinking, Lt Col Bathurst conceded, had changed in Iraq, moving closer to the American concept of overwhelming force. Orthodox peacekeeping would, he said, "fail from the outset. Strength is respected here. If anything, we've shifted more than the Americans."

    Looking out from a rooftop over Amara's Dickensian brick factories, Major Charles Antelme spoke of the smuggling and shifting tribal allegiances of the area.

    "Maysan is the backwater of Iraq," he said. "People respect the tough guy with the gun. It's gangland. It's the Wild West. It's people breaking out of jail. They fish in the river using hand grenades."

    Black Watch soldiers leaving Camp Dogwood in central Iraq have returned with a new respect for American tactics. British troops are now more confident having proved themselves equal to the challenge of fighting in the Sunni triangle.

    Major Antelme said: "In South Armagh you felt like a prisoner in a fort. Now, the guys are tougher in a sense and the mood is lighter."
  2. Justice delayed, isn't justice.
  3. "Revenge is a dish best served cold"
  4. Rather self-defeating of course. Anythingthat goes down in the op. will instantly be classified by the bleeding-heart squad as an act of "mindless revenge" and cause more trouble for the poor old gdsm that to the perps. Even a basket mental case will have realised it is a good time to go visit hiis uncle in Bagdad if he had anything to do with the death of our lads.
  5. In fact "Welsh Guards seek justice" etc is just a headline, the bane of good journos everywhere, and that is why I avoided using it when I posted the same story on another thread earlier on Sunday. Other sites which have posted links to the story have introuduced the "revenge" bit although in fact the word appears nowhere in the story.

    Edited. Postscript - I am sure the Welsh Guards are sending a clear message to the locals, even if they do not get the Torygraph delivered.
  6. The only bleeding hearts we are interested in are the killers of the Red Caps, the message needs to be sent, mess with us at your peril
  7. This was the same soret of message meant to be served up by 1 Para at Londonderry on that Sunday at the end of January. Look how that backfired. Not wrong idea in posting that credo but colonial type warfare as in dealing with original Khartoum Madhi (General Gordon) now out of vogue. The other sides ability to generate instant mythology and make martyrs out of terrs is quite effective when almost everyone is looking for a stick to beat our lads. Shame - but that is how it is.
  8. Yes it is.
  9. The thing is many of them want to be martyrs one way or another.......

    May as well send them on their merry way, no?
  10. As the Chinook crash campaigners still say: "Justice has no expiry date."
  11. Trouble is, the message received is "hate us some more, we're foreign and in your country". It's not fair but you should have worked by now that life isn't.
  12. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    We need a recruiting campaign, how about,

    "Come to the Sandpit - help a gook meet Allah"

  13. Unless this is an Officially sanctioned leak, surely the hack that reported this is giving away some failry sensitive info - SECRET plus??? WTF is he playing at - "Dear bad guys, please stand to, Armoured Assault expected."

    Giving assistance to HM enemies - treason?

    Pressgang the barstad, send him out there as a dismount.

    If it is Officially sanctioned, some one needs to fall on their sword.
  14. Based purely on the contents of the article BB, it's possible but I would be surprised if the unit did not intend their CO's and other officers' quoted remarks to be 'on the record'. There is nothing in the article about specific dates and operational details. Bear in mind that irrespective of the reports in the UK about the Black Watch deployment, US forces clearly and deliberately signalled the Fallujah assault well in advance of the operation. I have no knowledge of the reasons, but I believe it would be irresponsible to speculate further.

    I also believe it would be a mistake to encourage hostility between British journos in theatre, and soldiers who may not be in possession of the full picture. If there had really been a problem I am sure the unit will have sorted it out locally, if necessary MOD wiould have had 'words' with the editor. Equally in the event of the unit having got it wrong, which I personally doubt, it will have been dealt with. Mission command does not yet include taking into account direction from arrse. :wink:
  15. Seem to remember Maggie blowing the Goose Green op on prime-time radio. Does seem rather odd that we spend so much time, effort and money on ensuring that we have the latest intelligence...and then graciously send the enemy his courtesy of the media and wonder how the blighter got inside our 'OODA' loop.