Britain 'negotiated truce before leaving Basra'

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Britain negotiated a ceasefire with insurgent militants in Basra before pulling troops out of the city, the Iraq inquiry was told yesterday.

A senior Ministry of Defence civil servant said that officials held talks with leaders of the al-Mahdi Army militia about a truce from spring 2007.

The al-Mahdi Army, also known as Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), a Shia militia loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, was heavily involved in the insurgency that erupted after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Jon Day, the Ministry of Defence’s director-general of operational policy at the time, told the Chilcot inquiry that “understandings” with the insurgents had run from June 2007.

Three months later British troops withdrew from central Basra Palace to the main coalition military base at the airport outside the city.

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