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UK troops threatened for wearing uniforms

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  • Staff at air base 150km north of London told not to wear uniforms in public
  • Air base says anti-war residents in nearby town could pose threat to personnel
  • Ministry of Defence says incidents have not escalted beyond verbal attacks
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Royal Air Force commanders are urging more than 2,000 personnel at a base in eastern England not to wear their uniforms in public after the troops reportedly faced months of verbal attacks from nearby anti-war residents.

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Anti-war activists are reported to be verbally abusing members of the armed services.

Airmen and women at Wittering air base, located 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of London, have allegedly faced seven months of verbal attacks from residents living in the nearby city of Peterborough who oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Britain's Ministry of Defence confirmed soldiers had been ordered to wear civilian clothing when visiting the city.

The alleged attacks have not escalated beyond verbal abuse, the ministry said. Video Watch as uniforms spark threats »

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned any harassment of the soldiers and encouraged military personnel to wear uniforms.

"All our armed forces should be encouraged to wear uniform in public," said Brown. "I condemn absolutely any members of the public who show abuse or discrimination to our armed forces."

Defense Minister Des Brownedescribed the situation as a "great shame."

"We must defend out forces' right to wear their uniforms in public," Browne said in a statement. "It is a great shame that some individuals in this community don't respect our forces."

"This is not a situation we should tolerate," said Browne. "We learned about this today and are investigating it as a matter of urgency."

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Local police in Cambridgeshire, where RAF Wittering is located, said they were not aware of any incidents involving soldiers and civilians Peterborough, the UK's Press Association reported.

The news of the uniform ban comes as the British government is carrying out a review of the public's perception of the military. The report is expected to recommend that soldiers be encouraged to wear their uniforms while off-duty to boost their popularity. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Des BrowneUK Ministry of DefenceRoyal Air Force of the United Kingdom

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