BAGHDAD – British soldiers on Tuesday were on alert for reprisals a day after they raided a police station in the southern city of Basra, killing seven gunmen in an effort to stop renegade Iraqi officers from executing their prisoners.
"We fully expect more attacks on our bases and on Basra stations, but that's nothing out of the ordinary," Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a military spokesman, said Tuesday. "But this is part of a long-term rehabilitation of the Iraqi police service, to make it more effective and more accountable, and ultimately provide better security for the people of Basra."
After the British stormed the police station, they removed 127 prisoners, who showed evidence of torture, then evacuated the building before blowing it up, he said.
Burbridge had previously said only 76 prisoners were in the station, but later said soldiers miscounted the prisoners because the operation was done under cover of darkness.
Some 800 of the British military's 7,200 troops in Iraq were involved in the operation, he said.
A spokesman for Iraq's defense minister said Monday that the Iraqi interior and defense ministries approved the Basra operation, but some members of the Basra provincial council said they were not notified.
"We object to the way the operation was conducted... There was no need to bring in such a huge number of forces and break down the station," council member Hakim al-Maiyahi told The Associated Press.
Burbridge acknowledged the council members' concerns, but said British officials had alerted the provincial governor, Mohammed al-Waili, who approved the operation.
"He told us it was the right thing — the way forward. He supported our activity," Burbridge said.
Al-Waili refused to comment on the matter.
Christians attended Christmas services in Baghdad and northern Iraq, home to most of Iraq's 800,000 Christians. Some in Baghdad stayed home on Monday, however, fearing violence.
Christians are on the fringes of the conflict, which mostly involves Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs, but they have been targeted by Islamic militants.
"I hope next year will bring good things and unite all Iraqis because there is no difference between Christians and Muslims," said Abu Fadi, a worshipper who does not use his Christian name because he fears for his safety. "May God bring relief from this."
In the latest clashes, at least 36 Iraqis died Tuesday in bombings, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad.
The three coordinated car bombs in western Baghdad injured at least 55 people, a doctor at Yarmouk hospital, where the victims were taken, said on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns. The attacks occurred in a mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhood.
In separate attacks, a bomb exploded in a central Baghdad market, killing four people and wounding 15 others, police said. Two roadside bombs targeted an Iraqi police patrol in an eastern neighborhood of the capital, killing four policemen and injuring 12 people.
In Kirkuk, 180 miles north of the Iraqi capital, another roadside bomb killed three civilians — including an 8-year-old girl — and wounded six other people, police said.
The U.S. military on Tuesday announced the deaths of six more American soldiers — three soldiers Monday and three more Tuesday in roadside bomb attacks near Baghdad.