British soldier killed in Basra bomb attack

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The Independent Online

A 19-year-old British soldier was killed and two seriously injured yesterday in a bomb attack on a patrol in Basra in southern Iraq.

A 19-year-old British soldier was killed and two seriously injured yesterday in a bomb attack on a patrol in Basra in southern Iraq.

Fusilier Gordon Gentle, from Glasgow, who had been in the Army for just three months, died when his convoy was hit by a blast from a hidden roadside bomb in a supposedly safe part of the British-run city at just after 8.25am.

The soldiers were all from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Highland Fusiliers. The two injured were taken to a local hospital. Their conditions were not believed to be life-threatening.

British commanders were bracing themselves for further attacks after receiving intelligence reports of paramilitaries moving into the south from the "Sunni triangle" in the north. Contingency plans have been made to send reinforcements, but no announcement of details was expected for at least two weeks unless there was a sharp deterioration in the security situation.

Fusilier Gentle, who was single, was on his first tour of duty in Iraq. His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Cartwright, said last night: "His name says it all. As a new member of the battalion he settled in with ease, happy in the team, and always willing to help others. His enthusiasm for his job instantly caught the eye of his peers and superiors alike."

Until yesterday there had been no British deaths in action since 31-year-old Corporal Ian Plank was killed in October last year. Five other British servicemen have died in road accidents this year.

In April this year, suicide bombers killed 68 people and injured more than 200 others in a series of rush-hour blasts in Basra. Sixteen schoolchildren are thought to have died as buses taking them to school were pulverised in the explosions. Five soldiers from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers were hurt in the blasts, one of them seriously.

The British-controlled Basra region has been relatively peaceful in comparison with the Sunni area to the north. Military commanders insist that the attacks carried out in the area are the work of insurgents and not local people.

The governor's house in Basra was taken over earlier in the year by the militia of the Shia leader Muqtada Sadr. But they left voluntarily after negotiations with the British military.

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