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Basra governor threatens to stop liaison with British
Basra's governor threatened today to stop dealing with British forces unless they release several Iraqis detained this week, including policemen, suspected of links to local killings and kidnappings.
The warning came shortly before a bomb exploded in a crowded Basra market at about 11:30 a.m. killing at least one woman and wounding three others, said police Capt. Mushtaq Kadhim. It was not immediately clear who was behind the explosion. Eyewitnesses claimed a man stepping out of a police vehicle planted the bomb.
Gov. Mohammed al-Waeli also called for a mass demonstration on Sunday outside the British consulate in downtown Basra, Iraq's second-largest city 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, to demand the release of the men, who were detained Tuesday in a joint Iraqi-British operation.
Tuesday's raids came amid an upsurge of roadside bombings and other violent acts targeting British troops, Iraqi security forces and local citizens in Basra, the main base for British forces in Iraq. Basra's police force has long been believed to have been infiltrated by Shiite militiamen.
"Basra's provincial council and all government offices will suspend all kinds of dealings with the (British) forces at all levels if they don't release the detainees," al-Waeli told The Associated Press.
British Gen. John Cooper, commander of the coalition forces in southeastern Iraq, wrote a letter to Basra's provincial council urging both sides to continue to work together and root out militant elements from the area's security forces.
"Some people wish to drive a wedge between the Basra people and the MNF (Multi-National Forces), but this must not be allowed to happen," Cooper wrote in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
The Basra governor also called for security control in his area to be handed over to the Iraqi forces and that the British forces should be stationed outside the city.