By Kevin Lynch

British troops have been wounded in action in Afghanistan, it was revealed today.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons "a very small number" of British soldiers had been hurt during the operation to root out terror chief Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda fighters.

The injured soldiers are all believed to have been safely returned to the UK for treatment.

No details have so far been released as to the number of troops involved, or the nature of their injuries.

Mr Hoon also told MPs that most troops were being taken off 48 hour standby to be deployed in Afghanistan and placed on one week's notice.

He said the decision had been taken in the light of developments in Afghanistan and was a "measured response" which would offer the maximum flexibility to respond to further developments.

"Given the more encouraging position on the ground I have today decided to relax the notice to move for the bulk of these forces," he said.