The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their posts to assassinate opponents.
Speaking to the Guardian, General Hassan al-Sade said half of his 13,750-strong force was secretly working for political parties in Iraq's second city and that some officers were involved in ambushes.
Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in policing and did not follow his orders, he told the Guardian.
"I trust 25% of my force, no more."
The claim jarred with Basra's reputation as an oasis of stability and security and underlined the burgeoning influence of Shia militias in southern Iraq.
"The militias are the real power in Basra and they are made up of criminals and bad people," said the general.