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Britain Brings Home War Dead

Britain has brought home 10 of its dead servicemen from the Iraq war, as the defense ministry investigates whether possible "friendly fire" has killed another British soldier.

Defense officials held a ceremony Saturday at the Brize Norton base northwest of London for the return of the bodies of eight British servicemen killed in the crash of a U.S. helicopter, and two British airmen shot down by a U.S. missile.

The defense ministry also opened an inquiry into reports that U.S. warplanes fired on members of the British Household Cavalry Regiment in southern Iraq Friday, wounding four soldiers and leaving one missing and presumed dead.

Britain has reported 23 fatalities in the first nine days of the Iraq invasion. Four of them have been in combat and the rest in air accidents or so-called "friendly fire" incidents.

In another development, the leader of Britain's opposition Conservative party is warning of more rearguard harassment attacks by Iraqi forces against American supply lines.

The politician, Iain Duncan Smith, is a British Army veteran and his party has backed Prime Minister Tony Blair for going to war in Iraq.

Mr. Duncan Smith told British radio Saturday the U.S.-led coalition will soon face a critical challenge when it engages Iraq's elite Republican Guard deployed south of Baghdad. "What they now have to do is make sure they have the wherewithal, the reserves, the manpower, to actually bring the Republican Guard to battle and destroy them," he said. "And that is the key moment in this whole campaign."

Meanwhile, anti-war demonstrations were organized in 20 cities across Britain Saturday. A group called the Stop the War Coalition said it wanted to draw attention to the mounting toll of Iraqi civilians killed.