Three Britons among death toll as fresh violence erupts in Iraq

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The Independent Online

A roadside bomb killed three British soldiers and wounded two in the southern city of Amarah early yesterday morning, as Iraq was engulfed by a fresh wave of violence. A further 55 civilians were killed and 82 wounded when a suicide bomber driving a fuel tanker struck at a gas station near a Shia mosque and market south of Baghdad. The explosion that killed the soldiers left a small crater in the road in the Hay al-Risala district of Amarah, a predominantly Shia city 95 miles north of Basra.

It is not clear who carried out the bombing, although the city is a stronghold of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia.

The deaths bring to 92 the total number of British soldiers killed in Iraq since the invasion of 2003. The 8,500-strong British force has ceded substantial day-to-day control of the four southern provinces where it is based to the Shia militias.

A little-known Iraqi insurgent group said it was behind yesterday's attack. "Thank God, this morning ... three British soldiers were killed and at least three others were injured by exploding a package by their patrol in the Maysan province," the group, calling itself the Imam Hussein Brigades, said in a statement posted on a website used by the main Iraqi insurgent groups, including the al-Qa'ida group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The name suggested it was a Shia group.

There has been a surge of attacks, mostly directed against civilians and brutal even by Iraqi standards, across the country over the past week.