Six soldiers injured in Afghanistan and Iraq

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The Independent Online

Six British soldiers suffered minor injuries today in incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said two were hurt in an incident in southern Afghanistan, plus one local person.

Four soldiers were injured in an incident involving some form of explosion in Shaibah, near Basra, Iraq.

The spokeswoman could not confirm reports from Afghanistan that the incident there happened when a man driving a booby trapped station wagon drove into a military convoy.

She confirmed the reported location of the Helmand provincial capital of Lashka Gar.

The incident in Iraq happened near the Shaibah logistics base, just outside Basra.

The attack in Afghanistan was reported to have happened near the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) base run by British personnel in Lashka Gar.

Taliban militants have recently stepped up suicide attacks against coalition forces, particularly in the south of the country.

A week ago British troops escaped an attack near their base there.

Helmand is a centre for the opium trade and still has a Taliban presence.

MPs have warned recently that British forces will face a deteriorating security situation when more troops deploy there in the summer as part of a Nato mission.

The Commons Defence Committee said attempts to crack down on the region's drugs barons could actually result in a worsening of the security situation which the troops are supposed to stabilise.

The MPs also said they were "deeply concerned" that the 3,300-strong taskforce lacked sufficient close air support or transport helicopters.

The Army is currently preparing to deploy the full taskforce, based on 16 Air Assault Brigade, which should become fully operational by June.

Britain has 8,000 troops in Iraq and Defence Secretary John Reid said recently that a large number would remain in the country by the end of this year, despite plans to reduce the contingent.

He said the process of deciding when foreign troops would hand over responsibility to Iraqi security forces would begin once a new Iraqi government was formed.

Britain is cutting its presence by 800 soldiers, or 10%.