US troop deaths top 1,900 in Iraq
"My understanding is, first, it happened very quickly. Second, there is lack of discipline in the whole area regarding this matter," said Haydar al-Abadi, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. "It is (a) very unfortunate development that the British forces should try to release their soldiers the way it happened."
British authorities said their soldiers were being held illegally and that their captors had refused an order from the Iraqi Interior Minister for their release. The commander of the operation to free them sought to minimize the extent of destruction at the jail.
"Minor damage was caused to the prison compound wall and to the house in which our two soldiers were held," said Brig. John Lorimer, commander of the 12th Mechanized Brigade.
Photos from the jail Tuesday showed a concrete wall broken through, several cars crushed — apparently by armored vehicles — and prefabricated structures demolished.
Mohammed al-Waili, the governor of Basra province, condemned the British for raiding the prison, an act he called "barbaric, savage and irresponsible."
British Defense Minister John Reid defended the action as "absolutely right."
He said laws under which the Iraqi government was given sovereignty in 2004 require that coalition forces detained by Iraqi authorities must be handed over to the U.S.-led multinational force.
"I understand also that the minister of the Interior, at the highest level,
instructed that they should be (handed over), that the local judicial
authorities said the same," Reid told the British Broadcasting Corp.