Police in Basra have detained 267 foreign â€œcriminalsâ€ as Iraqâ€™s second city witnessed clashes between Shiite militiamen and security forces, officials said on Thursday.The cityâ€™s police chief Jalil Khalil Shuail said the police detained 267 foreigners from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran who â€œinfiltrated into Basra and committed crimesâ€.Without elaborating on the nature of their crimes, Shuail said they had been detained over a period of time since June.
On Wednesday, Suhail himself escaped an assassination attempt by gunmen who fired on him as he took a tour of a local market. One of his guards was killed in the shooting.
The defence ministry, meanwhile, said there had been clashes between militiamen loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and police in recent days. Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammad Askari said the violence was â€œsimple and the security situation in Basra was under controlâ€.
â€œThe incidents reported were tackled by our security forces, both the army and the police,â€ he said. Basra has remained in the grips of a turf war between rival Shiite militias since British troops pulled out of the city in September.
About 5,250 British troops are now stationed at Basra airport, outside the city.
Britainâ€™s Prime Minister Gordon Brown said earlier this month that Britain would cut these numbers by more than half to 2,500 from early next year.
The troops based at Basra airport are mostly engaged in training Iraqi army and police units, the new guardians of the city.