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Memorial service held as British troops begin exit from Iraq

As 4,000 British troops prepare to leave Iraq, a memorial service was held in Basra yesterday, conducted by Catholic chaplain Fr Pascal Hanrahan, to remember the 179 British personnel who were killed during the six year operation.

The ceremony took place at the Basra Memorial Wall, which stands outside the UK Headquarters building on the Basra base. The Last Post was played and the names of the dead were read out one by one.

Although Southern Iraq is more peaceful than it was when British forces entered Iraq in 2003, few commentators imagined troops would still be in the country six years later. Some British servicemen have been away from their families and homes for two years and are now serving on their fourth tour.

Bruce Kent, Vice President of Pax Christi, said he was glad the troops are coming home but in his opinion they should never have gone to war in the first place.

He said: "I think the only way to honour those people who have died in Iraq is to ask why people go to war and especially why the armed forces, the senior generals accept orders to go to war when they know they have not had the authority of the United Nations security council."