British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq

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The Independent Online

Taliban militants killed three British soldiers patrolling in southern Afghanistan today. In Iraq, another British soldier died in a mortar attack.

The British military initially reported that two soldiers had been killed in the Afghanistan attack and a third unaccounted for but presumed dead, following an ambush on two British vehicles patrolling in volatile Helmand province.

Lt. Col. Kevin Stratford Wright, spokesman for the British Helmand Task Force, later confirmed that the body of the missing soldier had been found by troops searching the barren desert region for him. A fourth was seriously wounded and evacuated to a military hospital in Helmand.

The militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the soldiers, part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in Helmand, where nearly 4,000 British troops are deployed.

Britain has deployed nearly 4,000 soldiers in Helmand and the attack came a day after the Nato force, led by a British general, took command of the south from the US-led coalition. The force a mission to stabilise a region wracked by a Taliban-led insurgency and the drugs trade.

The latest confirmed deaths bring the number of British soldiers to have been killed in Afghanistan in the past two months to eight.

The attack comes a day after the British general leading the Nato troops in Afghanistan assumed command of multi-national forces in the lawless south of the country.

In Iraq, the British soldier was killed in an attack on a base in southern Iraq early this morning. The serviceman, from the 1st Batallion Light Infantry, died after a multinational force base in Basra city came under mortar fire at 3am local time (midnight BST). He was taken to hospital by helicopter but died from his injuries, the MoD said.

The MoD said: "It is with great regret that we can confirm that a British soldier from the 1st Batallion Light Infantry has died as a result of an attack on a multinational force base in Basra city. A mortar round exploded within the perimeter of the base at approximately 3am local time on Tuesday August 1.

"The soldier, who sustained serious injuries from the explosion, was evacuated by helicopter to hospital at Shaibah logistics base, where he sadly died from his injuries. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

An MoD spokeswoman said the soldier's next of kin had been informed of his death.

Squadron Leader Richard Painter, Basra military spokesman, said it was "very very difficult" to defend bases against mortar attacks. He told BBC News 24: "We do all that is reasonably possible under these circumstances.

"This one happened to actually fall within the perimeter. There are many, many mortar rounds used by insurgents that do not effectively fall anywhere near our bases."