World

British end military mission in Iraq

The last of Britain's military forces have withdrawn from Iraq after more than eight years of fighting militants and training security forces.
British soldiers respond to a suspected roadside bomb blast in Basra, Iraq in this Dec. 21, 2007 file photo. (Nabil al-Jurani/Associated Press)

The last of Britain's military forces have withdrawn from Iraq after more than eight years of fighting militants and training security forces.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the British Royal Navy on Sunday handed over its mission of patrolling waters off the southern Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf.

Al-Dabbagh said 80 British sailors had been helping to train Iraq's Navy. He said that role now will be filled by American sailors through the end of the year.

British forces were part of the initial U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that ousted President Saddam Hussein. British combat troops withdrew from Iraq in July 2009. At its peak, 46,000 British men and women were involved in the mission.

After the downfall of Saddam, their job become one of securing the mainly Shia south, which threatened to erupt into factional conflict.

The British Ministry of Defence says 179 British troops have died in Iraq since 2003 — 136 as a result of hostile action.