The Brits abandon their consulate inBasra, chased out by insurgent mortar fire.
The British consulate in Basra will evacuate its heavily defended building in the next 24 hours over concerns for the safety of its staff.
Despite a large British military presence at the headquarters in Basra Palace, a private security assessment has advised the consul general and her staff to leave the building after experiencing regular mortar attacks in the last two months.
The move will be seen as a huge blow to progress in Iraq and has infuriated senior military commanders. They say it sends a message to the insurgents that they are winning the battle in pushing the British out of the southern Iraqi capital, where several British soldiers have died and dozens have been injured.
A handful have already left by helicopter and the rest are expected to go this week, some of them to Basra air station eight miles outside the city and the rest back to Britain. A skeleton staff will continue to man the building until it is deemed safe enough for the rest to return. A Foreign Office spokesman insisted last night that its officials were “not bailing out”.