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There was no knowing who these men manning the barricade really were.Shots rang out from both sides in a firefight that resulted in one policeman being killed and three more being wounded.There was every chance, it seemed, that the new graveyard would soon be getting its first occupants.What was particularly frustrating was that a situation like this was meat and drink to the honed and highly motivated men of the special forces.The SAS had won its unrivalled public reputation by springing the hostages from the siege of the Iranian embassy in London back in 1980.Surely they could do the same for their own guys in Iraq, in 2005?And whether they were, in fact, secretly in league with the increasingly unruly Shia militiamen, the so-called Mahdi Army.To that end, the SAS patrol was out early, keeping tabs on a dodgy police captain.
The sergeant and lance-corporal just had time to radio in their position before skidding to a halt and getting out, hands in the air, hoping to talk their way out of trouble. They grabbed the British soldiers, hustled them into their vehicles and sped away.
At Credenhill camp, their UK base near Hereford, officers and troopers of 22 SAS were on parade in their best bib and tucker.
Their usual jeans and combat overalls were replaced by spotless dress uniforms for a ceremony to consecrate a new resting place for the regiment’s fallen heroes.
With a handful of colleagues in a second car, they comprised the total SAS contingent in Basra, the southern city where 8,500 British troops were tasked to back up the local police force in maintaining some semblance of order in post-Saddam Iraq.
The main SAS presence, known as Task Force Black, was based in Baghdad, engaged alongside U. special forces in a full- on covert war against Al-Qaeda.