13 British soldiers injured in blasts

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The Independent Online

Thirteen British soldiers were wounded today by two explosions in the southern Iraqi city of Basra during a demonstration, officials said.

Defence Minister Adam Ingram told the House of Commons about the violence in Basra, where many of the British soldiers in Iraq are based.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the 13 soldiers were evacuated to a nearby British military hospital at Shaibah, and none of them appeared to be suffering life-threatening injuries.

She said the explosions occurred during a demonstration, but that the protest did not appear to be linked to the blasts and that no Iraqi police or civilians were wounded.

The soldiers were reported to have fired tear gas at around 500 Iraqi demonstrators protesting at their failure to get jobs with the local customs police.

The chief of Basra customs, Colonel Zafer Abdel-Nabi, said that the demonstrators thrown rocks, petrol bombs and a grenade at the troops.

Nine of the the soldiers were wounded in a grenade explosion, he said.

Some demonstrators were reported to have shouted slogans in support of Saddam Hussein and protesting at Israel's killing of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City.

According to witnesses they chanted: "We are all sons of Yassin".