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Basra 'tense' after British death


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British soldiers in Basra (left) report a "tense" situation with the presence of al-Sadr militiamen (right).
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A spokesman for British forces in Basra described the situation as "tense" Tuesday following the death of a British soldier in the southern Iraq city.

"It's tense, but there's no specific trouble at the moment," squadron leader Spike Wilson told CNN.

"We are continuing with the same approach that we've been taking -- only conducting self-defense where necessary and assisting Iraqi security forces when they ask for it," he added.

Private Lee Martin O'Callaghan, 20, was killed during an attack by insurgents Monday, Britain's Ministry of Defence said on its Web site.

Pte. O'Callaghan, from London, became the 62nd British serviceman to die in Iraq since the beginning of the invasion last year when gun battles broke out in Basra after days of tension.

Reports from Iraq said three militants had been killed and 10 injured in the clashes in Basra, the main city of the southern sector in which British troops are helping provide security. Two British Army Land Rovers were destroyed.

Several other British soldiers were also injured in fights that broke out in the area Monday, but the ministry said there were conflicting numbers on the wounded.

Spokesmen on the ground Tuesday said they are still seeing reports of armed militia around, but "there are no further problems as of now, today."

"The vast majority of Iraqis in the area are quite worried. They want things to resume to normal," said Wilson adding, "they feel the efforts we've put in are overshadowed by this. This puts a great question mark over the efforts."

Wilson said the British military has not changed the way they are addressing the situation in light of Monday's attacks.

He says their troops continue to "maintain a low profile."

The Ministry of Defence was unable to confirm that the armed militia in question is directly aligned with Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Last Thursday supporters of al-Sadr in Basra said they had declared jihad or holy war against the British forces there.

O'Callaghan's death was the second tragedy to hit the unit in Iraq in less than a week. Pte. Christopher Rayment, 22, also from 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, was killed in an accident in Al Amarah on August 4.

CNN Producer Eden Pontz contributed to this report


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