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Confusion over 'captured' general

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A fire burns in this militia headquarters near Basra after an attack by coalition tanks.

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DOHAR, Qatar (CNN) -- British military officials have withdrawn their claim that they had captured an Iraqi general near Basra.

"We believe that's not the case anymore," said UK Press Officer Will MacKinlay early Monday, when asked whether UK forces still believe they captured an the high-ranking officer.

British officials would not elaborate on why the claim had been made.

After the reports of his capture on Sunday, Tawfic was interviewed on the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera and denied the claim.

"What they said was not true," Tawfic said. "I am still here. Please, do not delay me. I want to go back to my unit to continue the fight."

Tawfic described a "fierce battle" on the outskirts of Abu Khassib, a village near Basra in southern Iraq.

"Next to us were [Baath] party fighters, Fedayeen Saddam, and tribesmen. We destroyed five tanks and I, personally, saw four British soldiers dead," Tawfic told Al-Jazeera.

He said British fighters are "bombing randomly," and hit a civilian area in Abu Khassib and nearby areas, wounding "the elderly, women, and children." Tawfic said they used cluster and air-detonated bombs.

"Now, the enemy is confused," Tawfic said. "They are in fields and enclaves and do not know how to get out. We continue the fight using all means. You hear the sounds of explosions and tanks. Units are still engaged in battle."

The capture of the general was announced by the UK military after British Royal Marine commandos killed a Republican Guard colonel and captured five other high-ranking paramilitaries southeast of Basra.

British forces spokesman Group Capt. Al Lockwood said Sunday coalition leaders hoped the capture of the paramilitaries would provide valuable information, particularly about paramilitary operations in Basra.

"Strategically, probably it will show the vulnerability of the high ranks to the Iraqi people," he said.

Lockwood said some of the paramilitary fighters fled westward when the Marines arrived.

"I know we're aggressively patrolling the outskirts [of Basra], and certainly part of it will be under our control, but we don't have a complete picture of it yet," Lockwood said.

Basra residents were giving the British military useful information and the Britons were trying to gain more of their confidence, he said, adding that food and aid stations have been set up outside the city.

-- CNN Producer Justin Dial contributed to this report


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