Monday, August 30, 2010

Britains's Deir Yassin? Or Another Eden Abergil?

New book is out called Chasing The Devil, by Tim Butcher, published by Chatto & Windus.

The Daily Mail has a story on it:

SAS vengeance on the West Side Boys

The essence of what is is about and what was done:

...the spectacular SAS rescue of British troops held by vicious Sierra Leone guerrillas. But, 10 years later, a respected author reveals the real story: 200 rebels killed, their corpses hidden ... and the truth buried by Tony Blair

...The captured patrol from the Royal Irish Regiment originally numbered 12 – 11 British soldiers plus their local Sierra Leone liaison officer – and negotiators had succeeded in securing the freedom of five Britons.

...But what the hidden troopers heard and saw from the secret observation post changed everything. West Side Boys gunmen were inflicting a violent sexual assault on at least one of the ­British prisoners. ‘That was the point when the decision was taken to go in and get them out,’ a British special forces source said.

...At dawn on September 10, 2000, Gberi Bana was assaulted by D Squadron from the SAS while, a mile away on the opposite, southern bank of the Rokel river, a company of Paras launched an infantry attack on two other villages called Magbeni and Forodugu to suppress any threat of a counter­attack from rebels based there.

All seven prisoners were rescued at the cost of one British fatality, Brad Tinnion from the SAS...

...During research for my new book, Chasing The Devil: The Search For Africa’s Fighting Spirit, it became clear that Barras involved a second, more controversial component: the complete destruction of the West Side Boys as a fighting force.

While the hostages were flown to freedom by helicopter within 30 minutes, British forces stayed on the ground around Gberi Bana for four more hours, hunting down and engaging the rebels. No quarter was given.

At least 200 enemy combatants were killed during and after the rescue, including several women and children...There is no suggestion any rebels were executed and it appears all fatalities occurred in combat. During the country’s civil war, it was common for women and children to take part in fighting.

...Faced with many bodies, the decision was taken to conceal the number of enemy fatalities by dis­posing of some of them.

Two Sierra Leone witnesses said ­bodies were flown out of the village by Chin­ook helicopter, the same aircraft that delivered the assault force. One witness said he saw at least two bodies being dropped in the Rokel while the other described the floor of the helicopter fuselage running red with blood.

A British special forces source said: ‘They were dropped in the river, dropped across the jungle, and some buried in mass graves. It was just not politically acceptable to have so many dead after a rescue operation. It did not sit well with New Labour’s sup­posedly ethical foreign policy.’

...The brigadier then in command of British forces, David Richards – now a full general and recently appointed as Chief of the Defence Staff – boldly used his troops not just to rescue British passport-holders but to reinforce and revitalise the Sierra Leone army. A British-led military training mission continues in the country today.

...‘The SAS carry out robust oper­ations all the time, no more so than in Iraq and Afghanistan, but what stands out about Barras is that the rules of engagement were freer than perhaps any other operation in recent times,’ the special forces source said. ‘Basically, it was a free-fire zone.’

...Only one official statement was issued by the Ministry of Defence on the operation – one that made no mention of the SAS involvement, in line with official policy of offering no comment on British special forces...After donning surgical gloves, some of the British soldiers dragged the corpses and arranged them in lines.

The area was sufficiently safe for the troopers to take photographs of each other, which I have seen but promised not to reproduce for ­security reasons. [reminds you of Eden Abergil, no?]

One photograph is arranged like a grisly hunting souvenir with a dozen British soldiers, helmets removed, faces streaked with camouflage cream, posing with their weapons in front of a long line of dead rebels lying on a patch of bare earth near a house in Gberi Bana.

...By mid-2000, the West Side Boys had become the most serious obstacle to peace. Unpredictable and violent, they preyed on civilian traffic [Deir Yassin overlooked the main Jerusalem-Coast highway] using the main highway linking Freetown to the rest of the coun­try, raping women, stealing property and murdering innocent travellers.

...Barras was much more than a ­rescue operation, but for political reasons it has taken ten years for the story to be told of how the SAS hastened the ending of the civil war.

Was this a "disproportionate use of force"?

A "massacre"?

Will Israel protest?

Will Richard Goldstone?

(Kippa tip: B)
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yoni said...

>it was common for women and children to take part in fighting.

i noticed you highlighted this line. are you saying that it was common among the arabs of deir yassin or other arab settlements along the road to jerusalem, or arabs in general, for women and children to take part in fighting? and if so, do you think there's something wrong with this? (i.e. women in the idf and children on the "hilltops"). personally i never heard about this, though i know arab women would pillage the bodies after battles/skirmishes, and male arab fighters were often quite young- but not "children" in the way that sierra leone is (in)famous for turning into "soldiers".

just curious.

YMedad said...

I consider throwing stones by youngsters and women (specifically Aldoubi in Beita) to be fighting.

And at Deir Yassin, Arab males who had dressed as women had taken part in the fighting.