Siege of UK bases in Basra

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Siege of UK bases in Basra
Part of the Post-invasion Iraq
Map of the Siege of UK bases in Basra.svg
Map of UK bases in Basra.
Airport on the left.
Basra Palace on the right.
Date 27 February - 3 September 2007
(6 months and 1 week)
Location Basra, Iraq
Result British withdrawal from inner city Basra.[1] Denmark withdraw and exit the war.
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Denmark Denmark
Mahdi Army
Commanders and leaders

Muqtada al-Sadr

Wissam Abu Qader 
6,200 unknown
Casualties and losses
32 killed (UK)
1 killed (DK)[2]

The Siege of UK bases in Basra was conducted and maintained by the Mahdi Army in Basra for most of 2007. Following the reported success of the coalition Operation Sinbad, whose purpose was to stabilise Basra and prepare it for the turning over of security to Iraqi government forces, the city was overrun by insurgent forces from three different militia forces, including the Mahdi Army, and the British found themselves under siege in their bases and capable of conducting only limited raids in armoured convoys into the city.

The Bases

By this point in the war there were only two British bases left in Basra. One was on the outskirts of the city at the Basra Airport with a garrison of 5,000 soldiers. The second, which took most of the brunt of the fighting, was in the city center at Basra Palace, a former palace of Saddam Hussein, with a garrison of 700 soldiers.[3]

The Siege

Basra city.

The first British soldier that was killed in the city, following operation Sinbad, was killed on 27 February returning to the Shatt-Al-Arab Hotel.[4]

The airport base was being constantly hit by mortar and rocket fire during the siege but the Basra City battlegroup at the palace was involved in most of the fighting.

The Uti Triangle, a flat zone combining open wasteland, marsh and clustered buildings, was being used by the Mahdi army to conduct the mortar and rocket attacks on both the airport and the palace.[3][5]

More than 300 rockets hit the airport in the two months between June and August. Sniper attacks were also a deadly and common occurrence for British soldiers as well as IED attacks on patrols that were going out of the bases. The IED attacks and organised ambushes also hit convoys from the airport that were transporting needed food, fuel, ammunition and other equipment for the palace. Convoys were primarily used for this task because helicopters couldn't be used because of the high risk of being shot down.

Retreat from Basra Palace

On September 3, under the cover of darkness and without any media attention, the British withdrew their troops from Basra Palace to the airport, leaving their last foothold they had in the city. Basra was left to the militias.[6]


Following the withdrawal the UK was heavily criticized for pulling back from the city, mostly by the U.S. military.[7] Formally, control of the city had been handed over to Iraqi security forces, but in effect the control of the city was in the hands of radical militias[citation needed]. They led a turf war in the coming months over control of the city and up to 100 people, mostly civilians, were being reported killed each month. A black market monopoly formed over the oil exports from the city.

At the end of March 2008, the situation in the city led to an Iraqi troop surge into the city and the 2008 Battle of Basra.

British troops remained in control of Basra Airport until 2009 when it was handed over to Iraqi civilian control.

See also


  1. Cochrane Marisa "The Battle for Basra", page 4 - Institute for the Study of War
  3. 3.0 3.1 Under siege - Times Online[dead link]
  4. "MoD names soldier killed in Iraq" BBC News 28 February 2007
  5. "Death in Basra: the British under siege", the Times, Times Online, August 9, 2007, archived from the original on 16 August 2007<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. British withdraw from Basra - PBS Newshour
  7. Senior US military say British suffered "defeat" in Basra and left people of the city to be "terrorised", BBC Press Office, 29 September 2010<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links