LONDON (AFX) - Defence Secretary
Geoff Hoon has confirmed reports of an uprising in Basra
and said he has information that the Iraqi militia have
attacked their own citizens.
Speaking on BBC radio, Hoon said: "We know there have
been attempts by militia to attack their own people,".
He added: "Certainly there have been disturbances,
local people rising up against the regime. We know that
there have been attempts by regime militia to attack
those same people, their own people, to attack them with
mortars, machine-gun fire, rifles,".
The defence secretary said his information comes
"from various sources", but did not indicate that he had
However, he said he is not sure if the alleged
uprising is continuing.
He added that UK forces have taken "certain
measures... to reduce the the number (of Iraqis) acting
against their own people," referring to artillery and
air strikes by UK troops.
Meanwhile, UK forces are awaiting the order to enter
A UK officer outside the key strategic city said:
"There has been a civilian uprising in the north of
"We have seen a large crowd on the streets. The
Iraqis are firing their own artillery at their own
The residents of Basra are largely Shiite Muslims,
long oppressed by President Saddam Hussein's mainly
Sunni Muslim regime.
In Washington, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld
hinted that US and UK forces are not in a position to
support any rebellion.
"I am very careful about encouraging people to rise
up," Rumsfeld said, adding that Saddam has sent elite
Republican Guard forces and ultra-loyal paramilitary
forces into Basra.
Many in the city hold bitter memories of the last
Gulf War in 1991, when Washington encouraged Shiites to
revolt against Saddam, but then did not use military
force to back them.
Many were later killed by forces loyal to the
An Iraqi opposition spokesman, citing what he called
"field reports," said civilians in Basra used axes and
knives against ultra-loyal fighters from the Saddam
Fedayeen volunteer militia, controlled by one of
The spokesman said there have been casualties.
Baghdad has strongly denied reports of a revolt,
describing them as US "lies" aimed at demoralising the
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said it
is too early to say how the situation will unfold.
A reporter for the Al-Jazeera television channel
inside the city said he could find no evidence of a
The television station showed images of people
queuing peacefully for gas bottles.