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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 19:50 GMT
Troops get new armoured vehicles
Vector Pinzgauer
Vector Pinzgauers have been ordered for Afghanistan

UK troops in Iraq have begun receiving more heavily-armoured vehicles to increase protection from bombings.

The Land Rovers previously used had been criticised for not adequately shielding patrolling soldiers.

At an inquest on Tuesday, the mother of one soldier killed by a bomb in Iraq said lives were being put at risk.

Defence Secretary Des Browne was shown the new "Bulldog" vehicles during a visit to Basra and praised those who had got them delivered in "quick time".

Basra-based Lance Corporal Stuart MacSween told BBC Baghdad correspondent Andrew North the vehicles were safer than the armoured Land Rovers they had been using.

"As troops patrolling through Basra, they have given us a much more stable platform to fight from," he said.

'Soft target'

Meanwhile a coroner has ruled that three Staffordshire soldiers who died in a bombing in Iraq were unlawfully killed.

Pte Leon Spicer, Pte Phillip Hewett, 21, both of Tamworth, Staffs, and 2nd Lt Richard Shearer, 26, of Nuneaton, Warks, died in July 2005.

They were travelling in a "snatch" Land Rover when they were killed by a bomb near Al Amarah in southern Iraq.

Sue Smith, mother of Pte Hewett, said she was considering legal action to stop the use of the Land Rovers.

Following earlier criticism about them being a "soft target", Mr Browne announced in June that their use in Iraq would be reviewed.

In July, the Ministry of Defence increased its vehicle orders for Iraq and Afghanistan.

An order of Vector Pinzgauer vehicles for Afghanistan was increased to a total of 166, while an order of 70 upgraded FV430 troop carriers for Iraq rose to 124.

The new version of the FV430, known as Bulldog, offers a similar level of protection to Warrior tracked vehicles but is smaller and lighter.

The department said they would be delivered in batches to Iraq and Afghanistan over the following six months.

While in Basra on Tuesday Mr Browne also said the Iraqi Government was making encouraging strides in its efforts to curb violence in the country.

Des Browne speaks about his trip to Basra

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