Three soldiers killed in Iraq

Three British soldiers were killed and another seriously injured by a roadside bomb after they dismounted from their armoured patrol in southern Iraq today.

They came under attack in the Al Antahiya district of Basra city at about 1am local time, the British military in Iraq said.

They were returning from a re-supply mission to a base in Basra Palace and had stepped from their Warrior armoured vehicle when insurgents set off an improvised explosive device.

The soldiers' next of kin have been informed.

Today's deaths bring the total number of British military fatalities since the hostilities in Iraq began to 156.

Major David Gell, the MoD's spokesman in Basra, said: "It is with deep regret that I can confirm that three soldiers were killed and another very seriously injured by an improvised explosive device this morning.

"The device detonated at approximately 1am local time against soldiers who were dismounted from a Warrior armoured patrol in Al Antahiya district in the south-east of Basra.

"The soldiers were serving as part of a British contingent in the multi-national forces in the south east of Iraq."

Maj Gell said the injured soldier was seriously hurt and was being treated at the field hospital at the British base at the airport.

"He is now receiving the best possible medical care," he said.

"The patrol was returning from Basra palace after having conducted a routine re-supply at that base in the city.

"It wasn't a foot patrol, they had been in their Warrior armoured vehicle. There are times during patrols that soldiers are required to dismount to conduct routine checks and this is what happened here."

Maj Gell said there had been a recent increase in the number of attacks against coalition troops, in part due to their success on the ground.

"Regrettably, such attacks are not uncommon here. We are continuously striving to improve our tactics, technology and all our procedures to prevent this type of thing happening.

"To be honest, we expect that this will continue to happen in future."

Maj Gell said the number of attacks had peaked at the end February, fallen and were now on the rise again.

"We believe this to be in part because of our success against rogue militia who are trying to destabilise the situation," he said.

"We are having significant success against them in search operations, finding significant amounts of arms, ammunition and roadside bomb-making equipment.

"In arrest operations we are also targeting a number of insurgents."

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