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London Seeks Surrender of Iraqis Who Killed British Soldiers - 2003-06-25

Iraqi authorities in the south of the country say tensions between civilians and British forces led to the clashes Tuesday in which six British soldiers of the royal military police were killed and seven wounded. Four Iraqis also died and 14 were injured in the violence.

Authorities say tension had been brewing for some time in the town of Majar al Kabir over what many local residents considered heavy handed and intrusive methods used by British soldiers in their search for weapons in private homes.

Residents said they were offended by soldiers pointing guns at women and children and searching women's rooms.

On Tuesday angry civilians took to the streets to protest the searches.

In one violent incident local witnesses report that demonstrators shot at British soldiers after the soldiers fired rubber bullets to try to control the angry crowd. Other witnesses say the first shots were fired from the demonstrators.

In a second incident, British soldiers were killed in a gun battle with civilians at the local police in Majar al Kabir. Tuesday's incidents were the first major attack against British forces in Iraq since the ouster of the regime of Saddam Hussein in April.

American troops, however, have come under almost daily attacks and ambushes in the center of the country - in Baghdad and areas north and west of the capital.

U.S. officials blame armed elements still loyal to the ousted regime for them.

There have also been several attacks against oil facilities. The latest one on Tuesday, when an oil pipeline was damaged in Haditha, more than 200 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, sending oil into surrounding palm groves and into the Euphrates River. Iraqi officials said it was the work of saboteurs.