Military authorities in Iraq say a British soldier has been killed and another wounded in the southern city of Basra. A British military spokesman said Thursday the attack occurred the previous night after a British raid to the east of Basra. He said a convoy was returning to base after the raid when a crowd of people blocked the road, leading to a standoff.
The British troops fired warning shots and were then attacked with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. The official said 10 Iraqis were arrested following the trouble.
The latest attack follows the death of three British soldiers last week in Basra when their vehicle was attacked by unidentified gunmen firing from a car.
British forces are responsible for security in the southern part of Iraq, which has remained relatively stable since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1. The latest attack brings to 49 the number of British deaths since the war began in March.
On Wednesday, two American soldiers were killed in separate violence in Baghdad and to the west of the capital. Their convoys were struck by roadside bombs made from improvised explosives. Five U.S. soldiers were also injured in the two incidents.
The latest attacks follow two terrorist bombings at the United Nations headquarters and Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. And coming amid continuing criminal and sectarian violence, they have raised fears in the local community and among international aid workers that security may be spiraling out of control in Iraq.
Leaders of the Iraqi Governing Council and the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority say they are concerned by the violence and are working to counter it.
The head of the coalition forces in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, told reporters told reporters in Baghdad on Thursday that coalition efforts to maintain stability and rebuild the Iraqi security forces continue.
"In the last week we've conducted over 13,000 patrols across the country," he said. "We now have over 4,700 border guards that are in place and actually exercising control of Iraq's borders. And today in the 1st Armored Division sector we will have a class of 185 civil defense corps trainees that will be graduating and will begin operating on the streets of Baghdad starting on Monday."
General Sanchez added that coalition efforts to safeguard Iraq's oil pipelines and electrical installations are also increasing in the face of repeated sabotage of the country's infrastructure.
The remarks came after the head of the rotating chairmanship of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ibrahim Jafari, told reporters that the Iraqi leadership was also frustrated by the continuing violence and believed it would be addressed as soon as a ministerial cabinet could be formed. He said the formation of such a cabinet was due to be announced in the coming days.