British soldiers injured in gunfight

Seven British soldiers were injured during a gunfight near Basra after they were fired on by heavy machine guns and a rocket propelled grenade, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The soldiers were on a routine patrol in the village of Qal at Sahil when the firefight began.

The troops fired back but a back-up patrol nearby had to come and rescue them.

The Ministry of Defence said it did not know who fired on the soldiers but described them as "Iraqi civilians".

An MoD spokeswoman said: "A UK patrol came under fire and as a result seven UK personnel were injured. None of them are seriously injured.

"They came under fire from heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenade. The patrol returned fire before being extracted by a quick reaction force."

Four of the soldiers were taken to a military hospital and the remaining three were treated on a British Army base.

Although the injuries are described as non-life threatening they are serious enough to prompt the MoD to say some of the soldiers could be sent home.

The patrol, from the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry, is based at Paderborn in Germany.

The MoD was unable to say how the fire fight broke out or confirm if any civilians were killed or injured. Al Jazeera news channel has reported two Iraqi civilians were killed.

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