Friendly fire kills three Royal Anglians

CHRIS BISHOP Three Royal Anglians have been killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today.

CHRIS BISHOP

Three Royal Anglians have been killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today.

The latest casualties bring the death toll for the regiment to nine since the campaign against the Taliban began in 2001 - six of them in the last four months.

Today Defence Secretary Des Browne said he was “very saddened” by the death of “three brave men who were tragically killed in what is believed to be a friendly fire incident”.

He added: “We will look at this incident very carefully and make sure the families, who are uppermost in our thoughts, know exactly what happened to their loved ones.”

The soldiers, from the Royal Anglian Regiment's 1st Battalion, were on patrol in the Helmand Province yesterday evening, when they were killed by a bomb dropped by a US F15 aircraft, intended to repel insurgents.

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It is understood the soldiers called in close air support from two US F15s after coming under intense attack from the Taliban.

“One bomb was dropped and it is believed the explosion killed the three soldiers,” an MoD source said. “The three soldiers were declared dead at the scene.

“The injured soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to the medical facility at Camp Bastion for treatment. The events surrounding the incident are subject to an investigation.”

Lieut Col Charlie Mayo, a spokesman for British troops in Helmand province, said one of the wounded soldiers was very seriously wounded and the other seriously wounded.

He told Radio 4's The World at One: “During this patrol they came into contact with some Taliban from a number of firing positions.

“As they came under fire they then called in some close air support to assist them and an aircraft came in, it dropped a bomb and tragically this bomb killed three of the soldiers and injured two more. One of them is seriously injured and the other one is very seriously injured.

“The circumstances of what actually happened, we are now investigating. There are a handful of different reasons why this tragic incident has happened and we are not in a position at the moment and I don't think we will be for some time to find out exactly what has happened.”

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan, said it had procedures in place to minimise the risk of friendly fire incidents.

ISAF spokeswoman Lt Col Claudia Foss said: “ISAF feels deep sadness over the death of three soldiers killed in what is probably a friendly fire incident.

“ISAF is committed to finding out exactly how this tragedy occurred and how similar incidents can be avoided.”

The US Embassy in London said in a statement: “The United States expresses its deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the soldiers who died, and we wish those who were injured a speedy recovery.

“The UK soldiers were serving under the Nato-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), which is helping the Afghan people to build a peaceful, prosperous, and stable country.”

British troops have been engaged in fierce fighting around Kajaki, where repairs are taking place on a hydroelectric dam which will supply power to 2m Afghans.

The MoD said the dead soldiers' next of kin have been informed. Their names are expected to be released tomorrow. Their deaths take the number of British military fatalities in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November 2001 to 73.

They bring the total of Royal Anglians to have been killed in the fierce conflict to nine:

Private Darren George, from the Royal Anglian Regiment, was serving with the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, when he died on a security patrol on April 9, 2002. The Ministry of Defence later said hostile action was not a factor.

Private Chris Gray, 19, from 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, was shot during fighting with Taliban forces on April 13, while on a routine patrol in Helmand Province. He was airlifted to the main British base at Camp Bastion, but pronounced dead on arrival.

Corporal Darren Bonner, of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, was killed in Helmand Province on May 28. The signaller, who came from Gorleston, died when an explosion hit his convoy.

Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins, from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, died in an explosion while travelling in a Vector patrol vehicle on the outskirts of Sangin on July 25.

Pte Tony Rawson, 27, from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, died on August 10, when his patrol came under fire from Taliban fighters in Helmand Province.

Captain David Hicks, 26, from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment was killed during an attack on his patrol base in Helmand Province on August 11.

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