Black Watch soldier killed on road to secure new base

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The Independent Online

The Scots Guards are on stand-by to become the second British regiment to be deployed to areas of Iraq formerly occupied by the Americans.

The Scots Guards are on stand-by to become the second British regiment to be deployed to areas of Iraq formerly occupied by the Americans.

The Guards are expected to be ordered at around Christmas or the new year to replace the Black Watch battalion, which arrived at a new base near Baghdad known as Camp Dogwood yesterday.

A Black Watch soldier died yesterday after his Warrior armoured vehicle rolled over in the North Babil province in Iraq.

Three other soldiers suffered minor injuries in the accident, which did not involve any hostile action, the Ministry of Defence said. Officials did not name the dead man.

Yesterday a rocket-propelled grenade or a mortar bomb hit the base as Black Watch troops were preparing to move into the sprawling logistics centre.

Insurgents earlier delayed their convoy by 24 hours after they exploded a roadside bomb near Black Watch troop carriers as they made their way to their new base, an industrial-military complex outside the so-called Triangle of Death. Heavy vehicles became trapped in sand after the explosion and soldiers who fanned out found three more bombs had been laid in an attempt to ambush the convoy. American bomb disposal experts made safe the devices and no soldiers were injured.

There were no casualties but commanders said insurgents wanted to give the British troops a "bloody welcome".

The attacks were a grim reminder of the dangers surrounding the controversial deployment of British troops outside the British-controlled Basra area for the first time. Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, will be questioned about it by the Commons Defence Select Committee on Tuesday.

The Liberal Democrats said the further deployment of the Scots Guards was the first clear evidence that British troops were being sucked deeper into the war in Iraq in spite of Mr Blair's assurances.

"This is mission creep that I have been warning about," said Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader.

The MoD had indicated the Guards would replace the Black Watch in a reserve role for British forces in Basra, but families of the troops were alarmed at reports they were being mobilised for the area that came under fire yesterday.

Mr Kennedy also expressed concern at the estimate in The Lancet that 100,000 Iraqis could have lost their lives since the start of the war. "Ordinary Iraqis suffered under Saddam but this report underlines the costs of the military action," Mr Kennedy said.

Downing Street challenged the figures, however. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We need to be cautious because we have a number of concerns and difficulties about the methodology behind this.

"It seems to treat Iraq as if every area is one and the same, and, in terms of the level of conflict, that is not the case."

Meanwhile, a senior US military commander, Brigadier-General Denis Hajlik, said at a base near Fallujah: "We are gearing up for a major operation. If we do so, it will be decisive and we will whack them."

Many insurgents are said to have slipped past the US cordon around Fallujah into Ramadi, the provincial capital, which lies on the supply route from Baghdad to Fallujah.