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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November, 2004, 17:01 GMT
UK troops test new Iraq tactics
A marine preparing to land
Royal Marines are surprising suspects with 'eagle' checkpoints
Swoops from the air on suspicious cars and "baiting" would-be suicide bombers to flush them out are among new tactics being used by UK troops in Iraq.

A spate of attacks have killed four soldiers since the Black Watch battle group redeployed to Camp Dogwood.

Troops have replaced their "softly-softly" approach with tactics previously used in Northern Ireland.

It is thought hundreds of insurgents are trapped in the area near Baghdad after the assault on Falluja.

According to a British military intelligence officer, a "hornets' nest" of die-hard insurgents were caged inside the area south of Baghdad after the assault by US forces - a previous hotbed of militia - and Black Watch's blocking of key escape routes.

The insurgents have nowhere to go.
British military intelligence officer

British and US troops are now moving slowly into the "nest", setting up roadblocks, and searching for the insurgents.

"[The insurgents] have nowhere to go. They are fixed in that area and they are angry," the officer said.

Since the Black Watch's controversial redeployment in October to Camp Dogwood - 20 miles (32km) south of Baghdad - troops have been reviewing their approach.

'Tethered goats'

According to BBC correspondent David Loyn, who is embedded with Black Watch troops, soldiers have now been acting as the "tethered goat" and trying to encourage an attack on one of their own Warrior fighting vehicles to trap insurgents.

And Royal Marines from Taunton-based 40 Commando are using surprise raids from the air to check suspects on desert roads around the base.

A surprise road block
Royal Marines spend no more than 20 minutes on the ground

Arriving in helicopters, the marines spend no longer than 20 minutes on the ground, stopping and searching vehicles.

As soon as they land, troops take position along the route and approaching vehicles are ordered to stop up to 100 yards (90 metres) away.

The occupants are then ordered to walk forward, away from their vehicles and with their hands on their heads, and are searched.

The "eagle" checkpoints have been launched to avoid fixed, ground-based checkpoints which have attracted suicide attacks on British troops in recent weeks.

Private Paul Lowe, 19, Sergeant Stuart Gray, 31, and Private Scott McArdle, 22, all died in a blast at a fixed vehicle checkpoint on 4 November.

'Psychological effect'

Senior officers also believe the tactic could have a psychological effect on insurgents travelling by road.

It has been brought into the area around Camp Dogwood after being used successfully around the British-controlled area of Basra, in the south.

Sgt Leigh Anderson, of 40 Commando, said that unlike static checkpoints, suicide bombers were unable to locate and attack troops this way.

"Each time we set down a couple of cars maximum and then we're off again.

"It suggest an uncertainty to where we are and denies them freedom of movement.

"This is the kind of thing that used to be done in Northern Ireland all the time. The main difference is that there you could pull a suspicious vehicle off the road and let the traffic go by.

"Here, these guys are willing to just drive it straight into you."

Meanwhile, Army chief General Sir Mike Jackson has indicated UK forces could be sent elsewhere in Iraq.

In an interview with the Independent, the Chief of General Staff said he was prepared to send British troops to other parts of Iraq if necessary.

"They have all been [in the Basra area] until this one-off deployment of the Black Watch.

"That is not to say there may be a military requirement within the coalition as a whole for a British unit to be elsewhere," he said.

Pooled copy from a Sunday Telegraph correspondent was used to compile part of this article.

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