Ten British, US troops killed in Iraq

BAGHDAD - Six American and four British soldiers were killed in separate attacks in Iraq, coalition forces announced on Thursday, as a US helicopter also crashed south of Baghdad wounding four personnel.

The four British soldiers and a civilian interpreter in the same vehicle were killed outside the southern city of Basra in a complex attack involving a roadside bomb, small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Another soldier was seriously wounded.

"It is with deep regret that we can confirm that four British soldiers and a civilian interpreter were killed in a roadside bomb attack against a Warrior patrol west of Basra this morning," said the Ministry of Defence in London.

British Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stratford-Wright said the patrol repelled an initial attack from gunmen, hitting at least one assailant with return fire, before moving out of the urban area and coming under attack again.

West of Basra, the unit was hit by a roadside bomb, followed up with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, he told AFP by telephone from the British headquarters in southern Iraq.

"During that (roadside bomb) attack the five people were killed, all of whom were in the same vehicle. A further soldier who was in the vehicle is very seriously wounded," he said.

The dead interpreter was a Kuwaiti visa holder but not a Kuwaiti citizen.

In London Prime Minister Tony Blair lamented the deaths of the four soldiers as Britain celebrated the return of 15 British sailors from Iran.

"Just as we rejoice at the return of our 15 personnel, so today we also grieve and mourn for the loss of our soldiers in Basra who were killed as a result of a terrorist act," he said.

Thursday`s attack was the deadliest suffered by British forces in Iraq since four servicemen were killed last November when their patrol boat was hit by a bomb in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.

In the four years since the March 2003 invasion, 140 British soldiers have now been killed in Iraq.

In Baghdad, the US military also announced more casualties, saying six soldiers had been killed over the past two days as the rising body count increases domestic American pressure for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

Four soldiers were killed on Wednesday by roadside bombs in southern Baghdad and north of the capital, and two more troops were shot dead by insurgents in eastern parts of the capital on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Their deaths bring the US military`s losses in Iraq since the 2003 invasion to 3,261, according to an AFP tally based on Pentagon statistics.

On Thursday, four personnel on board a US army helicopter were wounded and "evacuated" when it crashed south of Baghdad.

Five others on board were safe, but the US military did not specify the circumstances in which the helicopter crashed.

Earlier reports said a Black Hawk crashed after being hit by ground fire in the Sunni stronghold town of Latifiyah, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Baghdad.

The US military said only that the incident was "under investigation."

With Thursday`s crash, 10 US helicopters -- including two operated by private security firms -- have come down in Iraq since January 20, most because of hostile fire.

Insurgents also killed a top Iraqi journalist in a bomb attack on Thursday.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew up a dump truck outside the office of Baghdad Television, a 24-hour channel owned by the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, killing the network`s deputy bureau chief Thaer Ahmed Jabr.

Another 12 employees were wounded.

Police also found the body of an Iraqi woman journalist, Khamael Muhsin, who was a prominent television newsreader during the time of Saddam Hussein, a day after she was kidnapped, a media rights group said.

And gunmen killed at least seven Iraqi soldiers near the restive northern city of Mosul, security officials told AFP.

Iraq`s raging violence is set to be discussed at a ministerial meeting of Iraq, its neighbours and other leading powers in early May, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told AFP.

"At this stage I do not want to reveal all my cards... about the venue, the countries... we will make an announcement in the next couple of days," said Zebari, a Kurd in Iraq`s Shiite-led government.

Turkey is willing to host the conference which could see US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sit alongside her counterparts from Iran and Syria, which Washington accuses of fuelling the insurgency in Iraq. Both countries deny the charge.

04/05/2007 14:37 GMT

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