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14 marines killed in Iraq bomb attack -

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14 marines killed in Iraq bomb attack

Reporter: Norman Hermant

TONY JONES: In Iraq, US losses continue to mount. Fourteen marines and an interpreter have been
killed in a bomb attack on their armoured vehicle in Anbar Province, in the west of the country.
Twenty-one marines have now died in the past three days, including six snipers killed in an ambush
as they hunted for insurgents. The death toll for American troops has now passed 1,800. Those
developments come as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw suggested Britain will consider
withdrawing some of its forces from Iraq, saying they're doing some good, but may also be part of
the problem, helping to feed the insurgency. Norman Hermant reports.

NORMAN HERMANT: The US death toll in Iraq passed 1,800 when marine sniper units, trained to seek
out and kill insurgents, instead became the hunted. The marines were operating in the insurgent
hotbed of Hadithah, west of Baghdad. It's believed, as in similar operations, they had taken up
rooftop positions to target the enemy. But it was the marines who became the targets. Caught in a
crossfire, five were killed immediately. A sixth later died of his wounds. US sniper units have
seen this before. Four marines were killed in another ambush last year.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN, CENTRE FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Being a sniper doesn't mean you're
immune to being shot, it doesn't mean you're less vulnerable than other combat soldiers. Everything
depends on the particular tactical situation.

NORMAN HERMANT: For US forces, that tactical situation is complicated by the consistent fear they
are being betrayed by insurgents who have infiltrated Iraq's new security forces. This latest
attack also illustrates another problem for the American military. Hadithah, with a Sunni
population sympathetic to the insurgency, has been cleared by US forces before. But without enough
troops to occupy hotbeds like this, the Americans withdrew and Iraq's security forces couldn't keep
insurgents out. The battles of the Sunni triangle, though, are a far cry from the daily routine for
British troops occupying the south of Iraq around Basra. There has been much praise for their
low-key approach, which includes regular patrols on foot, without heavy armour, without wearing
helmets.

LIEUTENANT GUY LOCKE, BRITISH ARMY: Wearing helmets conveys a very strong posture that you are
expecting trouble. When we're on the ground, we want to convey as soft a posture as possible.

NORMAN HERMANT: But there are some who say the British posture has gone too far. One of them was
American journalist Steven Vincent. Last weekend, he wrote an article criticising the British for
taking a hands-off approach as radical Shiite fundamentalists exerted more and more influence on
Basra's police and security forces. Sometime after that article was published Mr Vincent was
kidnapped outside his hotel. Today he was found shot to death - another indication that even Iraq's
relatively safe areas can quickly turn deadly. Norman Hermant, Lateline.