British soldier killed in action

BRITISH forces in the Gulf suffered their first known combat death today and two other soldiers were missing in action, military sources said.The dead soldier, who has not been named, was shot in a riot by Iraqi civilians near Al Zubayr, which is close to Iraq's second city, Basra.

BRITISH forces in the Gulf suffered their first known combat death today and two other soldiers were missing in action, military sources said.

The dead soldier, who has not been named, was shot in a riot by Iraqi civilians near Al Zubayr, which is close to Iraq's second city, Basra.

He was shot yesterday and died of his wounds today.

A British military source at Allied Central Command in Qatar said next of kin had been informed.


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The two other British soldiers were still missing after their Land Rover was ambushed, also in Al Zubayr, on Sunday by Iraqi forces with a rocket-propelled grenade.

The fatality brings the British death toll so far to 18 - eight Royal Marines died when a helicopter crashed in Kuwait last week, seven were killed when two helicopters collided over the Gulf and two were killed yesterday when their Tornado was brought down by "friendly fire".

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Some of the strongest resistance of the war so far has been faced by the Desert Rats in the Basra area.

Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen militia and security services, some of them armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, have tried to trick British forces by flying white flags before opening fire and by wearing civilian clothes.

In the run-up to war coalition forces had thought they would be welcomed in the predominantly Shia city.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair told MPs today that "pockets of Saddam's most fiercely loyal security services" were holding out there.

"They are contained but still able to inflict casualties on our troops and so we are proceeding with caution,' he said.

Up to 1,000 hard core Saddam loyalists are thought to be hiding in Basra itself, possibly using civilian buildings, such as mosques or schools, as bases.

British artillery shells have been fired into the city but at one point today the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, one of four Desert Rats battle groups, came under heavy mortar fire and retreated 10 miles to avoid a possible ambush.

According to reporters on the ground commanders are considering deploying Royal Marine Commandos and paratroopers in the area.

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