Two British soldiers were missing Monday after vehicles they were traveling in were attacked in southern Iraq, British defense officials said.

The Ministry of Defense said the attack took place on Sunday, but it declined to give details of where the attack happened.

"Every effort is being made to find and recover them," the ministry said in a statement.

At U.S. Central Command in Qatar, Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a spokesman for British forces in the Gulf, said British vehicles had come under attack from "regular army forces."

"The formation dispersed. When they regrouped they found one of the Land Rovers that the soldiers had been in was unoccupied," Lockwood told Sky News television. "They are searching the area looking for them."

A spokesman said the ministry was being deliberately vague about the suspected location of the soldiers for safety and operational reasons.

No further details were immediately available.

Several British units, including the 7th Armored Brigade and the Royal Irish Regiment, have been fighting Iraqi troops throughout southern Iraq. British Royal Marines have met stiff resistance during attempts to secure the vital Iraqi port of Umm Qasr.

There are some 45,000 British forces in the region. Since the conflict began, 16 British servicemen have been killed.

Two British fliers were killed Sunday when a U.S. Patriot missile battery mistakenly shot down their RAF Tornado warplane near the Iraq-Kuwait border in the conflict's first confirmed case of "friendly fire."

The other British soldiers died in helicopter crashes.