Two British soldiers killed in "friendly fire" near Basra

LONDON -- Two British soldiers were killed in a "friendly fire" incident with a British tank near Basra in southern Iraq, a military commander said Tuesday.

The men died when their Challenger II tank was mistakenly targeted by another Challenger crew Monday evening, Col. Chris Vernon said in a Ministry of Defense statement. Two soldiers were seriously injured and have undergone surgery, Vernon said.

The ministry identified the men killed as Corp. Stephen John Allbutt, of Stoke-on-Trent, and Trooper David Jeffrey Clarke, of Littleworth.

"It is with regret that I have to announce the death of two soldiers of the Queen's Royal Lancers, part of the 1st Royal Regiment of Fusiliers battle group," Vernon said.

Their deaths bring to 20 the number of British servicemen killed since the start of the war on Iraq. Two soldiers were killed in combat -- both near Az Zubayr, close to Basra. Sixteen soldiers died in two helicopter accidents and a "friendly fire" shooting.

"Regardless of the careful planning and measures taken in the type of operations in which we were engaged and in the heat of battle, there is always a risk that incidents such as this might happen," Vernon said.

The four-man tank crew was fighting Iraqi forces west of Basra when they were mistakenly targeted by another British tank, which fired a single round, according to a British Press Association report.

A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman declined to comment on that account.

Lt. Col. Mike Riddell-Webster said the crew involved in the incident would be withdrawn from action.

The ministry also released the names of the two British soldiers who were killed in combat near Az Zubayr: Lance Cpl. Barry Stephen from Perth, Scotland, and Sgt. Steven Mark Roberts from Bradford in northern England.

The two men killed when their Tornado jet was brought down Sunday by a U.S. Patriot missile were identified as Flight Lt. Kevin Barry Main and Flight Lt. David Rhys Williams.

The three soldiers killed when two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collided over the northern Gulf on Saturday were Lt. Antony King, Lt. Philip West and Lt. James Williams.

The ministry did not release the names of other British troops killed in action, at the request their of families.


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