Four British soldiers were wounded after being fired on with handguns and rocket-propelled grenades during a three-hour firefight in southern Iraq, coalition officials said.

The soldiers were wounded Friday evening in Qalah Salih, about 25 miles south of Amarah, after a crowd of residents gathered around a convoy of coalition vehicles and soldiers who had arrested a man thought to have fired on them earlier in the day with an RPG.

"The patrol returned fire after receiving fire from heavy machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade," a British Ministry of Defense (search) spokeswoman said. "They were extracted by a quick reaction force and whilst the incident was happening, four of the patrol members received non-life threatening injuries."

The names of the wounded soldiers, whose injuries weren't life threatening, weren't released.

The British spokeswoman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the four were taken to the Shaibah (search) military hospital near Basra. She declined to identify the regiment involved in the attack.

It wasn't known if any bystanders or civilians were injured or killed.

The injuries occurred in a sector commanded by British forces.

Britain was the United States' main ally in the Iraq conflict and has lost 58 soldiers since the war started on March 20. Some 8,000 British forces are currently stationed in Iraq.

Some 410 Danish troops are based near Qurnah (search), between Qalah Salih and the city of Basra.

Southern Iraq, dominated by Shiites, has not had the anti-coalition guerrilla violence that has plagued Baghdad and Sunni-dominated central Iraq.

But Basra and other southern towns have seen killings and violence blamed on local rivalries and revenge attacks on former backers of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.