DOHA, Qatar, March 27 (UPI) -- British officials said Thursday the discovery of two suspected anti-shipping mines delayed the deliver of aid to the strategic Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, and they chided the Arabic-language al-Jazeera channel for broadcasting the images of British soldiers killed in the fighting.
"Over the last 96 hours, Coalition mine-hunters have been mapping the deepwater channel to the port of Umm Qasr," the maritime component commander said in a statement. "A large number of possible mine contacts have been identified, and follow-on Coalition ships have been placing mine disposal charges next to these contacts and exploding them."
The discovery of the suspected mines has delayed the arrival of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad, which is loaded with humanitarian aid from Kuwait and Britain. The aid includes rice, lentils, chickpeas, flour and World Health Organization medical packets. The ship was due to arrive Thursday.
The commander said given the large number of Iraqi mine-laying vessels found by U.S.-led coalition forces, it was possible two contacts were mines laid by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime.
"As a consequence, the arrival of Sir Galahad to Umm Qasr, and her cargo of humanitarian aid, has been delayed," the statement said.
British military officials called a "flagrant and disgraceful breach of the Geneva Convention" the release by Iraqi officials of close-up television pictures of British soldiers killed in the fighting.
"We have yet to undertake formal identification, but it is probable that these are the two personnel currently listed as missing," said Group Captain Al Lockwood, the spokesman for the U.K. Forces in the Gulf. "The next of kin have been informed that these soldiers have now been categorised as missing believed killed. Our thoughts are with their families and friends."
In a statement, he also condemned al-Jazeera's broadcast of those images.
"We deplore the decision by al-Jazeera to broadcast such material and call upon them to desist immediately," he said. "We request all media outlets not to become tools for Iraqi propaganda by re-broadcasting such material."
In a news briefing in Doha, Brian Burridge, the U.K. national commander, echoed those sentiment, but the al-Jazeera reported defended his network.
"I think that our message is to show our audience the truth even if it is dirty war," he said. "We at al-Jazeera are part of neither the coalition nor a part of the Iraqi regime. We are independent media."