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Iraq Transition

Official: British troops freed in jailbreak

Saddam nephew gets life; suicide bombs kill 10 south of Baghdad



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Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A British armored vehicle escorted by a tank crashed into a detention center Monday in Basra and rescued two undercover troops held by police, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told CNN.

British Defense Ministry Secretary John Reid confirmed two British military personnel were "released," but he gave no details on how they were freed.

In a statement released in London, Reid did not say why the two had been taken into custody. But the Iraqi official, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, said their arrests stemmed from an incident earlier in the day.

The official said two unknown gunmen in full Arabic dress began firing on civilians in central Basra, wounding several, including a traffic police officer. There were no fatalities, the official said.

The two gunmen fled the scene but were captured and taken in for questioning, admitting they were British marines carrying out a "special security task," the official said.

British troops launched the rescue about three hours after Iraqi authorities informed British commanders the men were being held at the police department's major crime unit, the official said.

Iraqi police said members of Iraq's Mehdi Army militia engaged the British forces around the facility, burning one personnel carrier and an armored vehicle.

Video showed dozens of Iraqis surrounding British armored vehicles and tossing gasoline bombs, rocks and other debris at them.

With one vehicle engulfed in flames, a soldier opened the hatch and bailed out as rocks were thrown at him. Another photograph showed a British soldier on fire on top of a tank.

"Many of those present were clearly prepared well in advance to cause trouble, and we believe that the majority of Iraq people would deplore this violence," Reid said.

Reid said both troops were "being treated for minor injuries only and are expected to return to duty shortly."

He said British forces "remain committed to helping the Iraqi government for as long as they judge that a coalition presence is necessary to provide security.

"The situation in Basra is currently calmer after a day of disturbances. At this stage, it is not possible to be certain why these disturbances began," he said.

Iraqi journalist found dead

Basra, which is in southern Iraq and is the country's second-largest city, has largely been spared the turbulence in the north.

But violence has increased in recent months, with Shiite Muslim militias allegedly infiltrating police ranks and causing chaos.

Three British troops have been killed in Basra in September, and an Iraqi freelance journalist who had been reporting on the militia violence for The New York Times was found dead earlier Monday.

Authorities said the body of Fakher Haider, 38, was found shot in the head with his hands tied behind his back and a bag over his head. The Times said he had worked for the paper since April 2003.

Haider was abducted from his home shortly after midnight by armed, masked men who claimed they were police officers, the Times said.

The paper said his kidnappers pulled up to his apartment building in two cars -- one of them a police car -- before ransacking his apartment.

As they took him away, the assailants told his wife they would interrogate him for several hours and bring him back, according to the Times.

It was the second time in two months that somebody affiliated with the Times has been killed in Basra.

In early August, American freelance reporter Steven Vincent was abducted and killed just days after he wrote an op-ed article for the Times criticizing the growing influence of Islamic militants in Basra.

Vincent wrote that a police lieutenant told him that "a few police officers" were responsible for many assassinations -- "mostly of former Baath Party members -- that take place in Basra each month."

Saddam nephew gets life sentence

Iraq's criminal court convicted one of Saddam Hussein's nephews on charges of bomb-making and supporting the insurgency and sentenced him to life in prison, the Ministry of Justice announced Monday.

Aymen Sabawi, son of a half-brother of Saddam, was convicted for active support of the insurgency as well as the possession and manufacture of bombs.

"Additional incriminating information was discovered during the trial that resulted in further charges being filed against Sabawi and the announcement of a subsequent trial on the next November 1, 2005," according to a ministry statement.

An associate of Sabawi, Tariq Khalif Mazzal, also was convicted of possessing and manufacturing bombs and the court sentenced him to six years imprisonment, the statement said.

Sabawi was apprehended last May in a combined security forces operation near Tikrit. His father, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti, was No. 36 on the U.S. list of most-wanted members of Saddam's regime. He was apprehended in late February and remains in custody awaiting trial.

The statement said U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1438 accused the Sabawi family of stealing millions of dollars from the Iraqi people.

Suicide bombs kill 10

Two suicide car bombs detonated within minutes of each other Monday, killing 10 people.

The bombs targeted Iraqi police commandos providing security for pilgrims going to Karbala for the Shaba'an pilgrimage, an officer with Baghdad's Iraqi Emergency Police said.

The first bomb killed seven commandos and one civilian at a police checkpoint in Mahmudiye, about 21 miles (35 kilometers) south of Baghdad. Two commandos were wounded.

The second bomb killed two commandos at another checkpoint in Latifiye, north of Mahmudiye. Ten others -- civilians and commandos -- were wounded.

In Baquba, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Baghdad, an insurgent mortar attack killed one person and wounded five, police said. Police said the attack was aimed at Iraqi quick-reaction forces but missed its target.

Mosul safe houses raided

In Mosul, coalition forces raided two terrorist safe houses Monday, killing two men and detaining three others suspected of having high-level ties to al Qaeda in Iraq's operations in the city and northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The military said coalition forces have captured or killed at least four emirs, or regional leaders, in the past four months.

CNN's Enes Dulaimi contributed to this report.

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