British soldier killed during clash with Sadr supporters in Basra

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The Independent Online

A British soldier was killed in Iraq yesterday during a series of violent clashes with militia forces in the southern city of Basra. The death took place as violence flared again in Baghdad, where the explosion of a mortar shell in a busy street killed seven people and injured a further 47.

A British soldier was killed in Iraq yesterday during a series of violent clashes with militia forces in the southern city of Basra. The death took place as violence flared again in Baghdad, where the explosion of a mortar shell in a busy street killed seven people and injured a further 47.

The two incidents coincided with a gathering of religious and political leaders in Baghdad, who had met in order to discuss the selection of a 100-member interim assembly.

The death of the soldier, who has not yet been identified, was linked to a series of conflicts with supporters of the radical Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr, who reportedly used rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades during the attack.

A second soldier was injured during the clash and is receiving medical treatment, according to Major Ian Clooney, the spokesman for the British Army in Basra. The latest death brings the total loss of British servicemen's lives in Iraq to 65.

"There have been a number of incidents this evening in Basra where British forces have been attacked by insurgents," said Major Clooney. "The exact details of the attacks are not yet known but one British soldier has regrettably been killed and another injured."

The mortar shell in Baghdad set one building on fire and damaged seven cars, Colonel Adnan Abdul-Rahman, of the Interior Ministry, said. Sabah Kadhim, a ministry spokesman, added that the attack did not appear to be aimed at the conference, but seemed to be intended "to create chaos in the country".

The explosion took place only a few kilometres away from the conference at which the assembly was to be discussed. The gathering was considered a target for militants and two explosions yesterday afternoon shook the convention centre where it was being held, the US military said. A soldier and a civilian security guard were injured. The source of the blasts was unclear.

Ali al-Yassiry, an aide to Sadr, said he attended the conference to talk to UN officials about the Najaf violence, and said he was slightly injured in the blast. The meeting postponed the selection of assembly members until today, sources said.

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