British troops killed 20 Shia militiamen while trying to comb through an area in Basra where a Warrior AFV had been destroyed. The Telegraph describes the events.
"It was all going very well but then there was a sense something bad was about to happen as we noticed children starting to speak into their mobile phones and point at us," the commander said. "At this stage it became clear that the militia was massing for some kind of attack."
As the troops took up defensive positions around their Warrior and Bulldog armoured vehicles, Iraqi gunmen carrying AK47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades could be seen scurrying along rooftops and down streets. It is believed ammunition and hundreds of weapons are hidden in the area and brought into the open at short notice when the British appear.
That was the signal for a battle lasting two hours to begin.
The soldiers from the Rifles and Duke of Lancaster's held off the attacks for more than two hours and shot a number of gunmen. There were no British casualties as they gradually fought their way back to their base at Basra Palace.
The stated objective of the British incursion was to "make quite clear there's nowhere in Basra we cannot go". It was not to arrest the bombers who had blown up the Warrior nor to dismantle the cells which planned the attack. It was not even to police up the hundreds of weapons and stocks of ammunition secreted everywhere in anticipation of a British incursion, except insofar as it was used up firing on them. The British troops fought skilfully and well but it is far from clear whether the objective had any meaning or if it was achieved at all.