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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 August, 2003, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Danish soldier killed in Iraq
UK troops in Basra
UK troops head the multi-national force in the south
A Danish soldier serving with the international stabilisation force in Iraq has been killed in a clash near the southern city of Basra.

Corporal Preben Pedersen, 34, is the first Danish soldier to be killed since Denmark sent a contingent of about 400 troops to Iraq in July.

Details are still sketchy but shooting erupted when a Danish unit stopped a truck carrying several Iraqis during a routine patrol overnight, a spokesman from Denmark's army command said.

A preliminary investigation indicated Pedersen may have been killed by friendly fire, the spokesman told the Associated Press. Two Iraqis also died in the incident.

The Danish forces are based in the Basra region, which is controlled mainly by British troops.

They include a light infantry unit, medical staff and military police.

We have lost soldiers in the Balkans, in Afghanistan and now...in Iraq
Svend Aage Jensby
Danish Defence Minister
The overnight clash happened in Al-Madinah, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Basra, a British army spokesman in Baghdad said.

A Danish army judicial officer is being sent to Iraq to investigate the incident.

There were believed to be about nine Iraqis in the vehicle but it was not clear how many of them were armed nor who opened fire first, Kim Gruenberger of the Danish army told AP.

One Iraqi was also injured and several arrested.

The Danish soldier was taken by helicopter to a British field hospital in Shaibah where he died of his injuries.

Danes divided

"It's tragic that one of our soldiers...has lost his life while working to help the Iraqi people get back on their feet," Denmark's Defence Minister Svend Aage Jensby told Danish radio.

"We have lost soldiers in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, and now it has also hit us in Iraq."

He said the death would not affect Denmark's decision to keep troops in Iraq.

The Danish Government supported the US-led war in Iraq, sending a submarine and an escort ship as part of the coalition's war effort.

But the Danish public was divided over the issue and many large peace rallies were held in Copenhagen.

Denmark has also been involved in plans for the post-war redevelopment of the country.

A veteran Danish diplomat, Ole Woehler Olsen, was appointed in May as the regional co-ordinator in the province of Basra.

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