Two British servicemen assaulted in Lithuania

Two members of the RAF serving in a Nato air policing mission near the city of Siauliai in Lithuania were attacked and robbed outside their hotel yesterday. One is in a local hospital's neurosurgery unit recovering from severe blows to the head.

Yesterday's mugging was the latest in a string of fights between foreign servicemen posted to the base and people from the nearby town.

Nato soldiers who have been serving there since March have received a far from warm welcome. A group of Belgian soldiers were beaten and robbed in Siauliai within days of Lithuania joining Nato. At the time, local police pledged to step up patrols in areas frequented by the troops.

Britain has headed the mission since 14 October, when it assumed control from Denmark. According to Lithuanian police, the British servicemen were intoxicated at the time of the fight. Their commanders have not yet ruled out the possibility of disciplinary action.

Michael Clements, Britain's defence attaché to Lithuania, said the incident would not affect the RAF's leadership of the mission, which will last until early next year. "It's an irritation we'd prefer not to have to deal with," Mr Clements said.

A group of Belgian troops flew home in June after a brawl with locals. The British servicemen were mugged despite being provided with extra security from Lithuanian police, a special safety patrol from the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence, and an RAF detachment stationed at the air base.