Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 7 News List

British soldiers come under mortar attack

KILLING CONTINUES Five Iraqis died in attacks yesterday while US forces announced the deaths of two soldiers killed on Sunday when their helicopter was brought down


Insurgents fired more than 30 mortar rounds at a British military camp in southern Iraq yesterday, wounding four soldiers, officials said. Five Iraqis were killed and five wounded in two other attacks, including a roadside bomb that hit an oil tanker, sending a large plume of black smoke billowing over central Baghdad.

The US command said yesterday that insurgents shot down a US military helicopter during fighting south of Baghdad, killing two soldiers.

The attack occurred on Sunday during fighting in Youssifiyah, 20km south of the Iraqi capital, the military said in a brief statement.

The mortar attack on the British camp occurred at Camp Abu Naji in Amarah, 290km southeast of Baghdad, said British spokeswoman Captain Kelly Goodall.

One of the British soldiers received a serious leg injury, but the other wounds were minor, said Holly Wheeler, a British Ministry of Defense spokeswoman in London.

The attack raised the total of British casualties in Iraq over the past nine days to six soldiers killed and five wounded. The attacks all occurred in southern Iraq, an area that has traditionally been far more peaceful that central and northern Iraq where US forces are based.

On Saturday, two British soldiers were killed and one was wounded by a roadside bomb as they patrolled in their armored vehicle north of Basra.

On May 6, four British soldiers died when their helicopter crashed in Basra, apparently downed by a missile. The attack triggered a confrontation in which jubilant Iraqi residents pelted British rescuers with stones, hurled firebombs and shouted slogans in support of a radical Shiite cleric. Five Iraqi civilians, including a child, died and about 30 were wounded in the melee as Shiite gunmen and British soldiers exchanged fire.

Elsewhere yesterday, a drive-by shooting killed four teachers who were heading to their school in a village near Balad Ruz, a town 80km northeast of Baghdad, police said. The attackers and the victims were both riding in minibuses.

In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol missed the officers but killed one civilian, wounded four and set fire to an oil tanker parked nearby. ``The explosion caused a huge fire,'' said police Captain Ziyad Naji.

The attacks came after a day of widespread violence in Iraq that killed dozens of people, including 14 Iraqis who died in a double suicide car bombing on the main road to Baghdad's airport, and two US soldiers who died elsewhere in roadside bomb attack.

The violence occurred as talks on a new Cabinet bogged down only a week before the constitutional deadline for completion of the process.

There had been hope that Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki would fill at least some Cabinet posts when parliament convened on Sunday in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone, perhaps taking on for himself contentious roles such as the interior and defense ministries.

Al-Maliki's mandate to form a Cabinet expires on May 22. Should he fail to do so, President Jalal Talabani would have 15 days to name a new nominee to try to form a Cabinet. The constitution is unclear on whether he could pick al-Maliki again.

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