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War Briefs

Comeback call for UK troops

London, April 11 (Reuters): Britain today said it had started bringing home some of its 45,000 troops in the Gulf, starting with naval and air units.

“It would not make sense to keep personnel in the region any longer than is necessary. Some have already returned and some will return shortly,” armed forces minister Adam Ingram said at a ministry of defence briefing.

“This is by no means the beginning of a full scale reduction. Our commitment to Iraq’s future is undiminished and we are in the very early stages of beginning to look at the post-conflict phase,” he added.

The ministry of defence said four Tornado attack planes and their crew had returned in recent days and would be followed soon by about 500 staff from a field hospital unit.

Officials would not be drawn on how fast or large the drawback would be. “We do not want to prolong people there longer than necessary. But the pace of events on the ground will dictate the speed and scale,” a defence ministry official said.

Attack figure

Kuwait (Reuters): The nephew of an Iraqi cleric hacked to death by a mob in a mosque in Iraq on Thursday said his killers had killed six persons and taken control of the holy city of An Najaf. US forces stationed nearby were doing nothing to restore order, he said, quoting residents of Najaf. “The Americans are 5 km from Najaf and do not want to interfere,” Jawad al-Khoei, a nephew of murdered cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, said in the Iranian city of Qom. Earlier reports said two were killed.

Shia protest

Tehran (Reuters): Dozens of supporters of Iraq’s main Shi’ite opposition group stormed the Iraqi embassy in Tehran, tore down pictures of Saddam Hussein and chanted “Death to America” on Friday, witnesses said. The protesters, who had gathered for what was billed as a peaceful demonstration outside the embassy, entered the building, ransacking it and smashing windows and furniture.

Contract query

Washington (Reuters): A US Senate Republican chairwoman and four Democrats introduced a Bill on Thursday to require federal agencies to justify publicly how companies are picked to bid on reconstruction projects in postwar Iraq. In recent weeks, the US Agency for International Development, under an expedited process, has invited 21 companies to bid on eight initial contracts that could total up to $1.7 billion, a spokeswoman for the agency said.


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