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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Ten die in UK offensive in Iraq
British troops
British troops clashed with militiamen
Overnight clashes between British troops and Shia militiamen in southern Iraq have left 10 insurgents dead.

Another 50 Iraqis and two British soldiers were wounded in the operation, launched to stop insurgents from firing mortars at troops in the city of Amara.

A spokesman for the Mehdi Army militants loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr said three civilians were also killed.

But the British Army said there was no indication that civilians died.

Army spokesman Major Ian Clooney said: "The operation was fairly robust... there was appropriate force in a very targeted and precise manner."

Planes also dropped leaflets warning Amara locals against further fighting.

I spent hours willing the phone not to ring
Mother of British soldier

Maj Clooney said militants had also targeted coalition patrols with mortars and rocket propelled grenades in the southern cities of Nasiriyah, Basra and Samawah.

"The insurgents are using cover and buildings to launch indirect attacks rather than open conflict," he added.

Monday's killing of Private Lee Martin O'Callaghan, of 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment, brought the number of British deaths of military personnel in Iraq to 62.

The oldest of four children, Pte O'Callaghan lived with his parents, Eugene and Shirley, in Walworth, south London, before joining the Army.

Eugene, 49, told The Sun newspaper: "When he joined the Army and was sent to Iraq, I was so proud.

"He had only been in Iraq for four months and was due back next Wednesday.

"I can't believe this has happened.

"It is a nightmare.

"My poor wife is inconsolable.

"He was a good, good lad."

Pte O'Callaghan's aunt, Margaret Evans, 51, from Blackheath, south London, said the family was "absolutely distraught, devastated" at the death of her nephew, whom she described as "a really great kid".

"He always wanted to go into the Army.

"He had just done his military training and then he went straight to Iraq.

"My message to Tony Blair is, we should not be there.

"Why are we in Iraq? It is my personal opinion only, but my message would be, get the rest of the kids out."

The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"Over the past week there's been a concerted attack on the insurgents"


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