100th British soldier killed in Iraq

Two British soldiers have died in southern Iraq this week, bringing the number of the UK force to die during the conflict to 100, a Ministry of Defence statement said.On Tuesday morning, an explosion killed a solider with the 7th Armored Brigade in Basra province. Three other soldiers were wounded in the same incident, one seriously.

Another soldier with the same brigade died Monday morning after his patrol came under fire in Maysan province.Defence Secretary John Reid said he was "deeply saddened." He said it was a time to reflect on the sacrifice made by British troops and their families.

Britain has said it could start a partial withdrawal of its troops this year if local forces are strong enough to keep the peace.British forces are also preparing for a major new NATO peacekeeping mission in southern Afghanistan, where a separate American force has been battling Taliban guerrillas.Britain suffered its first casualties in Iraq within hours of the invasion. American and Iraqi losses have been far higher.

The Americans have lost more than 2,200 soldiers while estimates on Iraqi dead, including civilians, are thought to be in the tens of thousands.Most of Britain's 8,000 troops are based around the southern Iraqi city of Basra. A major port with a largely Shi'ite population of more than 1 million, Basra was thought to be relatively easy to control after the war thanks to the city's opposition to Saddam Hussein.

Initially, the British army's less aggressive approach towards patrolling won praise from locals and military experts alike, analysts told Reuters. While there were occasional outbreaks of violence it was only a fraction of the chaos that affected much of the central Sunni Arab regions of the country, where the U.S. operates.

But commanders told Reuters the area has become more dangerous over the past 8-9 months as guerrillas have developed deadlier forms of roadside bombs.

Anti-war campaigners in Britain seized on the 100th death to once again demand Britain pull out of Iraq, reports CNN. I.L.

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