Two British soldiers were killed and a third was seriously wounded in Iraq today, the army said.
The soldiers died when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb north of Basra, Major Charlie Burbridge said. The soldiers were travelling in an armoured Land Rover, commonly known as a "snatch vehicle".
"It appears a roadside bomb was used to attack the convoy," Maj Burbridge said. "They were in a snatch vehicle. They have been designed to protect the crew against a certain threat and on occasion they have been defeated."
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said two more were injured - one seriously - in the incident near the town of Ad Dayr. Both were taken by helicopter for emergency medical care at a British field hospital at Shaibah logistics base.
A spokesman for British forces in Basra said the attack happened at about 1pm (1000 BST).
The deaths mean that 117 British armed forces personnel have died serving in Iraq since the start of the campaign in March 2003. The deaths come amid increasing concern about the army's overseas deployments. One British soldier was killed by a suicide bomb in Afghanistan today, following the deaths of 14 service personnel there at the weekend when their RAF Nimrod crashed close to Kandahar.
Twenty service personnel have been killed while on patrol in snatch vehicles in Iraq. Many experts have questioned whether the Land Rovers provide adequate protection from the weapons used by Iraqi insurgents.
Maj Burbridge told Sky News that the attack happened in an area where the threat had been "relatively low". He said snatch vehicles were "equipped for the job" and soldiers knew they were "at risk".
"The equipment we have is the best that was available at the time of going on the operation," he said. "We have a very complicated operation out here. The equipment is adequate for the task and we have to get on with it."
The identities of the dead soldiers were not being released until their families had been informed.
Before today's deaths, 18 soldiers had been killed in snatch vehicles in southern Iraq during the past 16 months. Of the 115 British deaths in Iraq before today, 86 were classed as killed in action, including those which resulted from hostile action; the other 29 had died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, or had not yet been officially assigned a cause of death, pending the outcome of an investigation.
Last month, a Commons report criticised the use of the Land Rovers.
Yes indeed they did this is what they said please note that the emphasis is in the original - mfi
51. At its Basra Palace base, we met the UK's 20 Armoured Brigade. We were shown the equipment used on patrol, particularly the Snatch Land Rover. We heard that Snatch were very good vehicles, but they were old and could often break down. Many had previously been used in Northern Ireland. They were fast and manoeuvrable but not well armoured and were particularly vulnerable to Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack. Similar concerns were voiced by UK troops at the Shaibah Logistics Base.
59. We are concerned at the increasingly sophisticated nature of the threat and the consequent vulnerability of UK Forces travelling in Snatch Land Rovers. We welcome the Secretary of State's review of the use of Snatch vehicles in Iraq and believe it is essential that this review be completed as quickly as possible. In the long-term, FRES may offer a solution to the difficulties associated with the Snatch, but its introduction is too far off to offer an answer to current operational needs in Iraq. The MoD should consider an "off the shelf" purchase as an immediate and interim replacement for Snatch, even if it does not fulfil the long-term capability requirement. It is unsatisfactory that the lack of capability was not addressed with greater urgency much earlier.
Des Brown, the defence secretary, announced in July that the army would get about 300 new, tougher armoured vehicles, mainly German-designed Pinzgauers and US Cougars, for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they would not be available until the end of the year. Soldiers have been bolting makeshift panels on to the side doors of Land Rovers and the front of trucks to try to protect them from roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.[emphasis mine - mfi]