There’s loads of confusion about this story, but it seems to be common ground that British forces used tanks to break down the walls of an Iraqi prison where two soldiers, arrested for firing on Iraqi police, were being held. It’s increasingly evident that the coalition forces have become one of the array of armed militias in Iraq, all pursuing their own overlapping agendas and all claiming not to be answerable to anyone else.
Update This story is, not surprisingly, front page news in Britain and Australia, but the NYT barely covers it. It never made the front page of the website and, on the International page, it appears as a subheading to a story about the murder of an NYT reporter, also in Basra.
The latest statements from the UK government say that the soldiers had been handed over by police to a Shia militia group, presumably one of the Sadrist factions. The provincial governor, who has condemned the British action strongly, is also a Sadrist, it appears, though most of the reports I’ve seen suggest that the police are predominantly associated with the Badr brigade (armed wing of SCIRI, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who are currently regarded as ‘good guys’, being part of the national government). There’s more on this in the comments thread.