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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Three UK Iraq servicemen killed
Iraq map
The servicemen were on patrol in Basra, southern Iraq
Three RAF servicemen have been killed in a mortar attack in Basra, southern Iraq, says the Ministry of Defence.

Two of the men were from Suffolk-based 1 Squadron RAF Regiment and the other from 504 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force, based in Rutland, East Midlands.

Next of kin have already been informed, said the spokeswoman, who added that no further details could be given about the incident for "security" reasons.

The deaths bring the total number of UK armed forces deaths in Iraq to 162.

'Sad day'

The MoD said the men were killed "in an indirect fire attack on the Contingency Operating Base in Basra, Iraq.

"For operational security reasons we are unable to give any further details."

Major Mike Shearer, the British military spokesman in Basra, told BBC News 24 it was a "sad" day.

"You know the conditions that we live in here are very testing. But the procedures, the tactics and the other layers of protection that we have to help us against indirect fire are in place.

"But we just must always recognise that there are no absolutes when it comes to protection against such munitions. And...very sadly and tragically, we lost three of our own men yesterday."

Earlier, the MoD announced that the number of British troops in Iraq will be cut to 5,000 by the end of 2007.

Troop numbers were cut from 7,100 to the current 5,500 earlier this year.

The 1 Squadron RAF Regiment is based at RAF Honington near Bury St Edmunds and 504 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force is based at RAF Cottesmore.

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