Two British soldiers killed in rocket attack

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two British soldiers were killed in southern Iraq yesterday when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their armoured Land Rover in an ambush.

Two British soldiers were killed in southern Iraq yesterday when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their armoured Land Rover in an ambush.

Troops in a three-vehicle convoy on the outskirts of Basra pulled the dying soldiers from their burning vehicle as they were being attacked by insurgents armed with automatic weapons. The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, told the Labour Party conference in Brighton: "It is too soon to say who is responsible, but it does look like the actions of extreme Shia militia." Fighters led by the rebel cleric Muqtada Sadr, are suspected.

The soldiers were evacuated to a nearby British military hospital but died from their injuries, the Ministry of Defence said. The deaths brought to 68 the number of British soldiers killed in the Iraq conflict.

Tony Blair made a reference to the latest killings of British troops in his speech to the conference, offering his condolences to the men's families. The names and unit are being withheld until relatives have been informed.

Violence increased sharply in the area of southern Iraq patrolled by the UK's 8,000-strong force during an uprising by the Mehdi Army, the militia led by Sadr. Last month, there were 850 assaults on British patrols and bases, compared to just seven in July. One British base, at al-Ammara, north of Basra, was hit by 400 mortar rounds and rockets in night bombardments, killing three soldiers. Army sources said it was the highest number of hostile contacts by the armed forces since the Korean War in 1951-53.

In Basra, patrols have returned to wearing soft hats on the streets. Their armoured Land Rover, on a "routine administrative journey" with another Land Rover and a flat-bed lorry, was struck by the RPG on the passenger door, partly tearing it from its hinges. Television pictures showed severe damage to the blackened driving cabin.

As their comrades rushed to help, they came under small-arms fire. Two Iraqi civilians were injured but the attackers escaped unhurt.Across Iraq, there are now up to 70 attacks a day on allied forces, compared to 40 to 50 a day before the transfer of sovereignty in June.

Comments