Vol. 4 Num 94 Fri. August 29, 2003  

Iraqi resistance shows no sign of any letup
British soldier killed in south

A British soldier was killed in southern Iraq, formerly considered an oasis of calm, as resistance to the US-led coalition carried on unabated five months after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The attack late Wednesday came the same day two US soldiers were killed around Baghdad, a regular battlefield in the war of attrition between the coalition and guerrilla fighters, believed to include Saddam loyalists, Islamic fundamentalists and gangsters.

The British soldier was killed and another wounded in the southeastern province of Maysan, near the border with Iran, when a convoy of troops were confronted by a mob, a British military spokesman said.

The British troops were returning from a raid on the town of Ali al-Gharbi, where they had arrested two men for "anti-coalition" activities, spokesman Major Charlie Mayo told AFP.

About 40 kilometres (25 miles) south, they were confronted by a roadblock of Iraqi vehicles by the village of Ali al-Sharqi at around 9:45 pm (1745 GMT).

The troops then took another road but were again blocked by a crowd of some 30 clan members, Mayo said.

The soldiers got out and continued on foot, but were surrounded on all sides.

They fired warning shots but the crowd then launched a volley of rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, killing one British soldier and severely wounding the other, Mayo added.

The troops called in an emergency medical team and an air response unit, who came to their rescue. At least 10 people were arrested in the clash, Mayo said.

The troops then returned to their base in the province's capital of al-Amarah.

The death, which brought to 11 the number of British soldiers killed in Iraq since Washington declared major combat over on May 1, followed two fatal attacks on US troops in and around Baghdad.

This past month, the British have faced a series of attacks in Maysan province and three deaths in the main southern city of Basra, as well as riots over fuel and electricity shortages.

The unrest in the south came as the US marines were preparing to hand over five provinces in south-central Iraq to a 9,000 strong Polish-led multinational force. Already under way, the handover is expected to be completed on September 3.

Top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle told the French newspaper Le Figaro that the United States had made a key blunder in its planning for the war in Iraq which had hindered efforts to set up a stable Iraqi-led administration -- its failure to forge closer ties with the Iraqi opposition.