Crowd Kills British Soldier in Iraq

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Gunmen opened fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades on a British convoy trapped between two angry crowds in southern Iraq, killing one soldier and wounding another, the British military said Thursday.

The soldiers were returning from a raid when about 30 people blocked their route in the town of Ali as-Sharqi on Wednesday night, British Lt. Cmdr. Richard Walters (search) said.

The soldiers moved around that crowd, only to be stopped by a second group of people blocking the road near Fort Jennings (search), he said.

The soldiers got down from their vehicles and fired two warning shots to disperse the crowds when the Iraqis attacked, killing one soldier and wounding the second in the hand, he said.

The British arrested 10 people and withdrew to their base at al-Amarah, 75 miles north of Basra (search) with protection from helicopters and additional rapid reaction troops called to the scene, he said.

The latest death brings the British toll in the war to 49, with 11 of them killed since May 1 when President Bush declared an end to major fighting. Since that date, 143 U.S. soldiers have died -- five more than during the fighting.

Two U.S. soldiers died Wednesday in separate attacks in Baghdad and Fallujah, 30 miles to the west, the U.S. military said. A third soldier reportedly died separately of a non-hostile gunshot wound.

The deaths brought to 281 the total number of American soldiers killed since the war began on March 20.

U.S. lawmakers visiting Baghdad on Wednesday called for more Iraqi forces to be trained to relieve American troops and for an increase in intelligence gathering to stem guerrilla attacks on coalition forces.

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who led the 11-member House delegation on a five-day visit, said "extremists from other countries coming across the border," also pose a threat to coalition forces.

He said while the majority of Iraqi people "are happy that we are here ... there are some elements of the old regime that have gone underground, that are taking potshots here and there and still putting our soldiers in harm's way."

The violence in Iraq has prompted a number of international organizations to reassess security, with many pulling out expatriate staff or considering such a move.

The relief agency Oxfam was the fourth major international organization known to have pulled some or all of its foreign staff out of Iraq because of the increasing danger.

A day after the Aug. 19 suicide truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters, which killed at least 23 people, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund said they were temporarily withdrawing some foreign staff. Many U.N. foreign workers also have left the country.

Dozens of non-governmental aid and support groups are working in Iraq, and a senior official at one group said most of the agencies were studying whether to reduce foreign staff, or already had.

"Most of them are reducing their staff as much as possible," Hanno Schaefer, spokesman for Caritas, the Catholic Church relief agency.

Oxfam began withdrawing its 15 international staff members on Monday and completed the move within 48 hours, Simon Springett, Oxfam's program manager for Iraq, told the Associated Press from Amman, Jordan. The Oxford, England-based aid group had been working on water and sanitation projects with UNICEF in Iraq.

"The risk level was becoming unacceptable for us, making it impossible for our programs to operate," Springett said.

He said the bombing at the U.N. headquarters was only one of many factors that lead Oxfam to withdraw its staff.

"We felt international organizations were becoming increasingly targeted," he said. Fifty Iraqi nationals working for Oxfam were to remain in the country.

"I think there's been a blurring of humanitarian and military operations in Iraq," Springett said. "It's setting a very dangerous precedent."

The violence has hit Iraqis as well, with frequent carjackings and robberies. Gunfire and explosions are commonplace in Baghdad.

Two Iraqi policemen and three civilians were killed in a shootout with criminals early Wednesday in central Baghdad's Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves Square, a police official at that scene told Associated Press Television News.