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Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2003 at 8:03 AM
...in one incident, six British personnel have been killed...In a second incident the patrol took one casualty and two vehicles were destroyed. An RAF Chinook helicopter responded and was downed, with seven on board wounded, three seriously...
Six British soldiers killed in Basra attacks
George Wright and agencies
Tuesday June 24, 2003
Six British troops have been killed and eight injured in two clashes near the Iraqi city of Basra, the Ministry of Defence said today.
The ministry said the six were killed near Amara, north of Basra, but gave no further information.
In a second incident, troops from the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment patrolling an area south of Amara came under fire and sustained one casualty.
An RAF Chinook helicopter was called in to rescue the patrol, but it was attacked as it landed,and seven on board the aircraft were wounded, three seriously.
Although the attacks took place this morning and within a few miles of each other, it was unclear whether they were carried out by the same group of enemy fighters.
The MOD statement said: "There have been two incidents today near Amara. We very much regret to confirm that in one incident, six British personnel have been killed. Arrangements are in hand to inform their next of kin.
"In the second incident, troops from 1 Para patrolling south of Amara came under fire. The patrol took one casualty and two vehicles were destroyed.
"In response to the incident, an RAF Chinook helicopter carrying a quick response force came under fire as it landed. Seven personnel on board the helicopter were wounded, three of them seriously. All were extracted by helicopter and are receiving treatment."
It went on: "The Ministry of Defence is investigating the incidents, including whether or not they are related. The government will provide more information when we can but we ask the media to respect that the priority is ensuring that next of kin are informed as quickly as possible."
A spokesman said the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, was expected to update the House of Commons later today following a meeting with the prime minister.
Tony Blair's official spokesman said: "The prime minister was informed of this during lunchtime today and heard the news with great sadness and it goes without saying that he believes those who died have died with honour doing a very worthwhile job, serving their country with great distinction."
He stressed that the security of British troops had always been a primary consideration during planning for the reconstruction of Iraq.
Today's losses are the first major hostile incidents involving British troops since Baghdad fell to the US-led occupying forces. The US army has lost at least 18 troops to Iraqi rebel attacks since May 1, when major combat was declared over.
British troops are still based in and around Basra, Iraq's second city, which they took shortly after the outbreak of the Iraq war. They have been working to restore stability to the region and gradually hand power back to a civilian administration, but they still mount regular patrols.
In recent weeks soldiers have been patrolling the streets in caps, rather than helmets, in a bid to build trust with locals, and have suffered no major attacks.
The 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment is in Iraq as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. The 1st Battalion has around 650 soldiers in Iraq who operated mainly around Basra and the southern oilfields during the conflict.
Their "primary function" since the end of the war has been to look after the British embassy compound in Baghdad, according to defence sources cited by the Press Association.
The soldiers, who are based at Connaught Barracks in Dover, went out to the region in February and were due to start returning to the UK on June 30.
The town of Amara lies near the Iranian border at the north of the British area of control. It was the base for Saddam Hussein's notorious henchman Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, before he moved to Basra.
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