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British civilians being moved from Basra

October 31, 2006|Ken Ellingwood | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — The British government said Monday that it was moving most civilian staff members out of its compound in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of rocket and mortar attacks by militias.

Officials said the move was temporary. But the decision underscored the fraying security climate in southern Iraq, a largely Shiite Muslim region under the sway of various militias, such as that controlled by anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr.

British officials said some of the employees would be moved to the Basra airport and others would be sent to Kuwait or London.

"In recent weeks the threat from mortar and rocket attacks on our office in Basra has increased. Given the threat to the safety of civilian staff, we have decided temporarily to reduce the number of staff at our compound," the government said in a statement.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said the consul general would remain in Basra with a small support staff.

"We will stay in Iraq until the job is done," the government statement said. "We have adapted because we remain committed to the people of Basra and the elected Iraqi government."

The British compound, a former palace, has been staffed by about 200 employees, according to British media reports.

Though it is under heavy guard, it has come under daily attack.

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ellingwood@latimes.com

Janet Stobart of The Times' London Bureau contributed to this report.

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