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More Gurkhas heading for Iraq

UP TO 170 Maidstone-based Gurkhas are due to leave for Iraq next month as part of a deployment ordered by the Government to strengthen the defences of British bases in and around the city of Basra.

Soldiers from 69 Gurkha Field Squadron, based at Invicta Barracks, will join about 200 other UK troops going into the unstable country, currently preparing for the administrative hand-over by the coalition to the new Iraqi government in four weeks.

Capt Mark Chapman, of 36 Royal Engineer Regiment, Maidstone, said that the Ghurkas would carry out force protection work.

"That will include the creation of additional physical defences at current British bases," he said.

The soldiers are scheduled to return after three months. The latest deployments will raise the total of British soldiers serving in Iraq to almost 9,000.

About 80 soldiers from 61 Field Support Squadron, who are also based in Maidstone, were sent out about a month ago to carry out engineering and logistical work.

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