UK soldier '100th to die in Iraq'

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The Independent Online

A British soldier became the 100th to die in action in Iraq today after a routine patrol in Basra was hit by a roadside bomb.

The bomb, which also wounded a number of Iraqi civilians, exploded as armoured Warrior vehicles patrolled near the US consulate in the south east of the city.

A total of 131 UK service personnel have now died in the country since the start of hostilities in 2003.

Of those, 100 are classed by the Ministry of Defence as either being killed in action or dying from wounds sustained from action.

An Army spokesman speaking from Basra said today's blast happened at 9.30am local time (6.30am GMT) in the al-Ashar district, not far from one of the city's main waterways.

He said: "I can confirm that a British soldier has been killed after a roadside bomb attack earlier today.

"It also appears that a number of civilians were also injured and taken to a nearby hospital."

The spokesman said it was too early to reveal the soldier's regiment or further details about the attack.

"As with any such incident, it will be the subject of a thorough investigation," he said.

Today's attack comes around two weeks after an 18-year-old soldier from Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, was killed in Basra when a roadside bomb struck his patrol vehicle.

Private Michael Tench of A Company, 2nd Battalion the Light Infantry, died following the incident in the northern part of the city on January 21.

There have been criticisms in the past that British troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan have not been sufficiently protected by their existing armoured vehicles.

Last week, Defence Secretary Des Browne was shown an example of a new armoured troop carrier, known as the Bulldog, during a visit to Basra.

The carriers - said to give better protection than the Warrior - were ordered last year and are now being deployed.