Six British Soldiers Killed, Eight Injured in Iraq
Both clashes occurred near Amarah, a town about 180 miles southeast of Baghdad in the region controlled by U.K. forces.
“It’s normally very quiet down here,” British Army Lt. Col. Ronnie McCourt in Basra told the Associated Press. “We’ve been here nearly two months now and this is the first time people have been deliberately, consciously shooting at us.”
The U.K. Ministry of Defense said it was investigating whether the two attacks were related.
British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon said the six soldiers died in the first attack when military police who were training local police came under enemy fire.
In the second incident, a patrol came under heavy machine gun and grenade fire in an attack that injured one soldier and destroyed two vehicles, according to a British official. When a Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter carrying a Quick Reaction Force responded, it was fired upon as it landed. Seven troops on board were wounded, three of them seriously.
In London, U.K. Minister of Defense Geoff Hoon said the attacks would not change military maneuvers or policy in British-controlled areas of Iraq.
“Coalition forces have worked hard to secure Iraq in the aftermath of decisive combat operations,” Hoon told parliament, Reuters reported. “They will not be deflected from their efforts by the enemies of peace.”
Since President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1, there have been fewer attacks in the largely Shiite southern Iraq than in the northern and central parts of the country, where American soldiers have engaged in almost daily clashes. Four American soldiers have been killed over the past eight days, three in grenade attacks and one in a shooting.
“I think the basic analysis, notwithstanding what happened in the last 24 hours or 48 hours, is that the security situation is a little uneven in the country — in the north and the south, relatively secure,” Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
Resistance is probably coming from members of the Baath Party along with members of other paramilitaries, Myers said.
“I think it’s undetermined at this point how coordinated these efforts are,” he said. “That’s one of the things, of course, we’ve got intelligence looking at.”
At a press briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the recent deaths are “a sober reminder that while major combat in Iraq and Afghanistan is over, our country and coalition forces remain engaged in a difficult and dangerous war, the global war on terror.”