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Witness tells of troops' last plea

Slain Royal Military Policemen, top, from left: Sgt. Simon Hamilton-Jewell; Cpl. Russell Aston; Cpl. Paul Graham Long; and bottom, from left: Cpl. Simon Miller; Lance Cpl. Benjamin John McGowan Hyde; and Lance Cpl. Thomas Richard Keys
Slain Royal Military Policemen, top, from left: Sgt. Simon Hamilton-Jewell; Cpl. Russell Aston; Cpl. Paul Graham Long; and bottom, from left: Cpl. Simon Miller; Lance Cpl. Benjamin John McGowan Hyde; and Lance Cpl. Thomas Richard Keys

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The cause of the gunfight that killed six British soldiers is still not clear.
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LONDON, England -- Six British soldiers shot dead in Iraq pulled out family photographs in an attempt to save their lives, according to a press report.

The Royal Military Police had hoped that showing their loved ones would humanize them to the gunmen. "They wanted to say, 'We are just like you, look, we have wives and children too,'" an Iraqi eyewitness, Ali Al-Ateya, was quoted as saying by the London-based Daily Mail newspaper Friday.

"They hoped this would save them but it did not."

As tributes were paid to the soldiers at a service in Chichester Cathedral, southern England, Friday, the Daily Mail reported that they made frantic attempts to call for help half an hour before they died on Tuesday.

"They were trying to tell their colleagues at their base they were in trouble. But the help for them came too late," Al-Ateya was quoted as saying.

The British Ministry of Defence is investigating the killings at al-Amarah, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Iraq's second city, Basra.

"The circumstance and detail are being investigated. When we have more detail we will make it known," a spokesman told CNN.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is considering sending more troops to the region.

The six were the sole members of a Royal Military Police patrol that was training local police forces, Maj. Gen. Peter Wall said in Basra Thursday. They died following protests by civilians over weapons searches.

"The crowd violence appears to have stemmed from a misunderstanding," Wall said. "The townspeople expected searches for weapons to be conducted by our patrols.

Graffiti in Majar al-Kabir denounces the use of force to collect weapons from Iraqi homes
Graffiti in Majar al-Kabir denounces the use of force to collect weapons from Iraqi homes

"That was not our intent and this had been explained to the town council at a formal meeting earlier in the week, when the strength of their resentment to weapons searches had become clear."

The actual intent was "a routine joint patrol in the town working with the local militia," Wall said.

The soldiers were the first Britons to be killed in an Iraqi attack since the United States announced the end of major combat on May 1.


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