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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 October, 2003, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
UK soldier kills Iraqi at protest
British troops block the road during clashes in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Saturday
The clashes were reportedly sparked by a false rumour over pay
An investigation has been launched after a British soldier shot and killed an Iraqi during a demonstration in Basra.

About 100 Iraqi protesters had gathered in the southern Iraqi city on Saturday morning, an Army spokesman said.

The demonstration coincided with a violent protest in Baghdad which also left one dead.

Witnesses said both demonstrations were by Saddam Hussein's former soldiers over redundancy pay.

Spokesman Major Simon Routledge told the Reuters news agency a British soldier in Basra heard gunfire and then shot and killed an Iraqi holding a weapon.

Witnesses said the dead Iraqi had been a security guard who fired a warning shot when protesters were approaching.

They said British soldiers thought they were under attack and opened fire.

'Working well'

Captain Hisham Halawi told the AP news agency the Basra protest broke out when ex-Iraqi soldiers acted on a false rumour that Saturday was the last day they would receive redundancy payments.

Major Niall Greenwood, a British spokesman for the multinational force in Basra, said it was too early to determine whether the Basra protest involved ex-Iraqi military.

We take any incident like this, which are fortunately few and far between, very seriously
Major Niall Greenwood

But he said payments were working well in Iraq's second city.

"We are talking about two very different demonstrations many miles apart," he said.

"We take any incident like this, which are fortunately few and far between, very seriously.

"We are still investigating what happened and it is too early to say who was involved."

Unemployed

The Iraqi army was officially disbanded in May, leaving thousands of personnel suddenly unemployed.

After a series of violent protests, the Iraqi soldiers persuaded the US-led administration to pay them redundancy money - which is distributed to them on a daily basis.

There are 12,000 UK troops in Iraq, and many of them are stationed in the southern city.

In August, there was a string of attacks on the British forces which left four soldiers dead.




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