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The men in the other, undetected SAS car stayed at a distance and tracked the convoy to the walled compound of the Jamiat police station, where they saw their comrades being bundled inside.
Here was a situation guaranteed to fill the minds of the British military with dread.
To the SAS, Basra was a backwater, where its tiny force’s main job was protecting MI6 agents.
For the Army there, however, the pressing issue was the loyalty of the local police they were trying to train.
The hands of the SAS men reached for hidden weapons.
Except that no one, it appeared, would authorise such a mission.
The SAS needed clearance from defence chiefs in Britain but, concerned about the effects an assault might have on the fragile political set-up in Basra, they were sitting on their hands.
Seared in the collective memory were the two corporals in plain clothes murdered by a mob of IRA supporters in Belfast in 1988.
More recently, in June 2003, six military policemen in the Basra region had been captured by militants and butchered.