4 British soldiers, translator are killed in ambush in Iraq

Also, U.S. military announces deaths of 7 American troops

April 06, 2007|By Alexandra Zavis | Alexandra Zavis,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD -- Four British soldiers and a civilian translator were killed in an ambush yesterday in Basra, and the U.S. military announced the deaths of seven of its soldiers in Baghdad.

Also, a U.S. helicopter went down south of Baghdad, injuring four of the nine personnel aboard, the military said. Officials said the incident was under investigation.

At least nine U.S. helicopters have crashed or been shot down since January, raising concerns that insurgents are possibly becoming more effective at targeting aircraft.

The spate of helicopter attacks also could be a product of an increasing number of flights. The military relies heavily on aircraft to ferry troops and equipment to avoid the danger of roadside bombs.

The British patrol was first attacked with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, said Capt. Katie Brown, a spokeswoman for British forces in the southern port city.

It was then hit by a roadside bomb, which destroyed an armored troop carrier. Five people were killed and a sixth wounded inside the vehicle, she said.

The latest deaths lifted to 140 the number of British troops killed in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003.

British forces, who are attacked nearly daily in Basra, are pressing ahead with plans to hand over security control of the city to Iraqi forces. In March, they withdrew from one of three bases in the city center.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said in February that Britain would begin withdrawing 1,600 of its 7,000 troops in Iraq.

The attacks on the U.S. soldiers happened at a time when thousands of additional forces are deploying in Baghdad in the latest attempt to blunt sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have stepped up patrols in the city in a bid to be more visible and to improve relations with residents, but that also leaves them more vulnerable to attack.

Four U.S. soldiers were killed and four injured in two separate bombings Wednesday, the military said. Another was shot and killed during a reconnaissance mission that day. Two were killed Tuesday by small-arms fire while patrolling different parts of the city.

U.S. officials have expressed concern about the high number of car bombings and suicide attacks, which have persisted despite the new crackdown.

Yesterday, a suicide bomber drove a trash truck packed with explosives into a blast wall blocking the street where a military intelligence building and a Sunni television station are located, police said.

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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