The deaths bring the total number of UK forces killed in Iraq since 2003 to 168, with concern that fatalities are set to rise as British troops prepare their pullout from Basra Palace to the heavily fortified airport.
In September, British troops in Basra are due to hand over control to Iraqi security forces. They are to remain for an unspecified period at the airport, where their main role is said to be helping to train and assist the Iraqi army and police. During his first visit as prime minister to Washington last month, Gordon Brown had spoken of the 5,500 British troops stationed in Iraq moving from “combat to over-watch.”
There are complaints from military circles that this will leave British troops “holed up” and subject to further attacks as the situation in Iraq deteriorates. British forces are now reportedly the target of more than 80 percent of attacks in the area. According to the Ministry of Defence, 41 soldiers were killed in the period between January and mid-July—the highest number since 2003, including during the invasion—and 50 more seriously wounded.Read More