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Two British soldiers killed by bomb in Iraq: defence ministry

AFP file image. British soldiers clish with protesters.
by Ben Perry
London, (AFP) May 14, 2006
Two British soldiers were killed and one other wounded after a roadside bomb exploded in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Saturday, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

The soldiers were from the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, the ministry added. The deaths bring to 111 the number of British troop fatalities in Iraq since the March 2003 US-led invasion of the country. Of these, 85 were killed in action while the other victims died of causes including accidents and illness.

A third soldier was meanwhile injured in Saturday's incident, which occurred during a routine patrol north of Basra, according to the ministry.

News of the bombing comes as more than 30 people were killed in a spate of attacks on Sunday, including 14 dead in a double suicide bombing near Baghdad airport, Iraqi and US security officials said.

The British soldiers killed Saturday had been in an armoured Land Rover vehicle when the bomb exploded at about 11:45 pm (1945 GMT).

British Defence Secretary Des Browne said in a statement: "I was greatly saddened to hear that two British soldiers have died and one has been injured while performing their duties in Iraq.

"My deepest sympathies and thoughts are with their families and friends at this very difficult time."

Speaking later on BBC television, Browne insisted that Britain was making progress in Iraq despite the killings.

"We shall continue to serve the Iraqi people in the way in which we have for as long as they, through their government, want us to be there," he said, adding: "When the time is right we shall draw down our troops."

The names of the latest British soldiers to be killed were expected to be released on Monday.

Their regiment, the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian, is based in the county of Shropshire, midwestern England.

The defence ministry said the regiment's role in Iraq was "security sector reform", which involves training members of the Iraqi police, army and customs.

On May 6, five British military personnel were killed when their helicopter crashed in Basra. Among the dead was the first British servicewoman to die in action in Iraq, Flight Lieutenant Sarah Mulvihill, who was aged 32.

Church prayers were said Sunday for the five killed earlier this month.

Britain has some 8,000 soldiers deployed in and around Basra, a port city that has been relatively calm compared with the northern parts of Iraq where the US military is based.

British troops have however often clashed with the local authorities or the Shiite militias in the city.

Britain has been the United States' closest ally in the war in Iraq, with Prime Minister Tony Blair standing shoulder to shoulder with US President George W. Bush over the conflict that ousted Saddam Hussein from power.

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If the old saying that things need to get worse before they get better applies to Iraq, it's hard to imagine how much worse it can possibly get before that country returns to minimum normality.

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