Page last updated at 20:08 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Two held during parade protests

There were angry scenes as the soldiers passed

Two people were arrested during angry scenes as 200 soldiers marched through a Bedfordshire town centre to mark their return from Iraq.

It happened as anti-war protesters held placards saying "Anglian Soldiers Go To Hell" and "Butchers of Basra".

The two, thought to be members of the public watching the parade in Luton, were held for public order offences.

The 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, known as the Poachers, have toured Iraq twice in two years.

Two lines of police officers divided the anti-war protesters from a large number of local residents, some waving Union and St George's flags.

Police intervention

Police dogs and riot vans were also called to keep the two sides apart at the Homecoming Parade, organised by the borough council.

As the soldiers reached Luton Town Hall the small group of protesters shouted "Terrorists" and "Anglian Soldiers Go to Hell".

The protesters then had to be protected by police as supporters of the soldiers turned on them shouting "Scum" and "No surrender to the Taleban".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the actions of the protesters as "disappointing".

In a statement, he said: "The whole country is proud of our brave servicemen and women who serve their country with great distinction and courage.

It is therefore disappointing that a tiny minority tried, but ultimately failed, to disrupt today's event
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

"That pride in our armed forces was shown once again today when thousands turned out to welcome the 2nd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment.

"It is therefore disappointing that a tiny minority tried, but ultimately failed, to disrupt today's event. We should all be proud of the outstanding work our armed forces do."

Defence Secretary John Hutton also criticised the protesters.

He said: "I can only condemn the tiny minority who used this opportunity to make, whatever their personal views, utterly ridiculous and insulting comments to these brave men and women."

Captain Martyn Cook, one of the soldiers who took part in the parade, said: "These occasions, to us, aren't about politics. They're about wanting to say thank you to our family and friends that support us."

'Quickly contained'

Speaking after the parade Supt Andy Martin said: "We were on hand to ensure members of the public who wished to watch it could do so safely while anyone wanting to exercise their right to lawful protest could also be accommodated.

"Disappointingly a small number of people chose to cause a disturbance during the parade, which was quickly contained by officers. The rest of the event concluded without further problem."

Luton's Mayor Lakhbir Singh said earlier: "The Royal Anglian Regiment was given freedom of the town some years ago and we are proud to welcome them back."

The battalion, currently based at Celle near Hanover in Germany, recruits from several areas including Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

In 2006 Pte Joseva Lewaicei and Pte Adam Morris died in a roadside bomb attack outside Basra.

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