Dead soldier's mother calls for British troops to pull out of Iraq

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The Independent Online

The mother of a soldier killed in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq urged the Government yesterday to withdraw British troops.

The mother of a soldier killed in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq urged the Government yesterday to withdraw British troops.

Private Marc Ferns, 21, serving with the 1st Battalion, the Black Watch Regiment, was taking part in a routine exercise in Basra, southern Iraq, when a bomb laid by rebels exploded.

Pte Ferns was killed by the blast while Sergeant Kevin Stacey, 26, was critically injured and is being treated at a military hospital in Kuwait. The death of Pte Ferns, from Glenrothes, Fife, is the second among British servicemen in Iraq in only four days and brings the total death toll to 64.

Christine Morgan, his mother, called on Tony Blair to withdraw British troops from Iraq as soon as possible.

She said: "Get them home. They are a peace-keeping force, they are supposed to have handed over to Iraq's own forces.

"How many more? It is 64 just now - I do not want that number to go any higher and God willing, Kevin will not be 65."

As the flag at the Black Watch headquarters in Perth flew at half mast, Lieutenant-Colonel James Cowan, the Commanding Officer of the regiment, paid tribute to the soldier. "Pte Ferns had loyally served the Black Watch for three years and had a bright future ahead of him," he said. "He was an experienced, committed, professional and very popular soldier who will be sorely missed by all who knew him. Our sympathies and thoughts are with his family at this time."

Pte Ferns, who had been in Iraq since May on his second tour of duty, had described his sense of duty in an interview with the Daily Record newspaper before his departure. Explaining his reasons for going to Iraq, he said: "I couldn't look my Ma and Pa in the eye if I didn't do my duty. We all think about our family at a time like this."

After the attack,supporters of the radical cleric Muqtada Sadr marched through Basra in a demonstration believed to be unconnected to the explosion.

Squadron Leader Spike Wilson, a spokesman for the British forces, said: "An explosive device was detonated near a passing British patrol. A British soldier was killed and another seriously injured. All we are doing at the moment is maintaining a low-level presence and responding to requests from the Iraqi security forces." The incident coincided with an assault by thousands of US troops and Iraqi soldiers on militiamen loyal to Sadr in the holy city of Najaf.

Earlier this week, Private Lee O'Callaghan, 20, was fatally shot in the chest during a battle between British forces and militants loyal to Sadr. This week's fatalities also prompted calls from politicians for the Prime Minister to pull British troops out of Iraq. Tommy Sheridan, the leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, said: "How many more young Scots must be blown to pieces in the name of Bush and Blair's lies?"

Annabelle Ewing, the Scottish National Party MP for Perth, said: "This situation can't go on indefinitely. We should be replacing US-led coalition troops with soldiers from Islamic countries under the authority of the United Nations."

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