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British Soldiers Hurt in Basra Demonstration

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2004 – Thirteen British soldiers were wounded by a grenade attack and one was injured by the crowd during March 22 protests in Basra, Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force 7 officials announced in a news release.

Thirteen of the soldiers were taken to a British military hospital at Shibah and were reported to be in serious condition. The other soldier suffered only minor injuries and was returned to duty.

In response to the attack British personnel fired a number of plastic-type munitions called baton rounds in self-defense. No live rounds or tear gas were used at any time, the news release said. The demonstrations are thought to have centered on demands for further employment opportunities with the Iraqi police and security forces, officials said.

"Thankfully, none of the soldiers is in a life-threatening condition," said Maj. Tim Smith, the British military spokesman in Basra, as quoted in the news release. "I want to commend their restraint under enormous pressure in dealing with the situation with the minimum of force."

Smith said there's no evidence to connect this incident with any other, or with political events elsewhere. "We are treating it only as a public order matter," he said.

"Incidents like this are extremely rare in Basra," he said. "We have the consent and support of the vast majority of people here, and will continue to work with them to improve both security and opportunity for all Iraqis in this region."

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