[JURIST] British troops supported by Iraqi forces raided a Basra prison unit [UK MOD press release] early Monday morning, freeing 127 prisoners detained in squalid conditions by a rogue Basra police squad suspected of torturing its prisoners. Following the raid, UK military spokesman Maj. Charles Burbridge said the serious crimes unit of the southern section of Basra was a front organization whose true purpose was to commit crimes and to execute the enemies of rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army [Globalsecurity.org backgrounder], which dominates much of Basra. Burbridge said the prisoners were freed from inhumane conditions, and that many exhibited signs of torture, including crushed extremities, cigarette flesh burns, and gunshot wounds to the arms and legs. Seven gunmen were killed by the Iraqi and British forces during the three-hour raid, with no British casualties.
British troops raided the same Basra prison [JURIST report] in September 2005 to free two British soldiers who had been captured and detained by the serious crimes unit. The New York Times has more. BBC News has additional coverage.