Lakenheath plane dropped bomb on Royal Anglians

Three East Anglian soldiers, who died in a “friendly fire” tragedy in southern Afghanistan, were killed by a bomb from a Suffolk-based US warplane, it has emerged.

Three East Anglian soldiers, who died in a “friendly fire” tragedy in southern Afghanistan, were killed by a bomb from a Suffolk-based US warplane, it has emerged.

The three servicemen from the Royal Anglian Regiment died last week after an F-15 jet providing close air support dropped a 500lb bomb on their position whilst fighting in the volatile Helmand province.

Military officials have now confirmed that the F-15 was based at the American airbase at Lakenheath, which currently has more than 800 personnel supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The news comes as the Ministry of Defence and American authorities continue to investigate the “friendly fire” incident, which killed Privates Aaron McClure, 19, from Ipswich, John Thrumble, 21, from Chelmsford, Essex, and Robert Foster, 19, from Harlow, Essex.

The soldiers were patrolling the north west of Kajaki, in northern Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, with 7 Platoon B Company (Suffolk) of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment when they came under fire from Taliban fighters at about 6.30pm local time last Thursday.

Fire fight air support was requested from two US F15 aircraft, but one of the bombs tragically struck the compound where the three soldiers and their section were located. The three men were all pronounced dead at the scene and two other members of the battalion were injured.

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Army Lt Col David Accetta, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in Kabul, Afghanistan, said: “We can confirm those F-15s are from Lakenheath.”

However, he refused to say whether the pilot's involved in last week's incident were still flying missions for the US Air Force or still in Afghanistan.

It is believed that there are about 20 aircraft from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath that are currently providing close air support in the region.

More than 800 airmen - 14pc of the Suffolk airbase's operational staff - were deployed in May on a four month tour supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

RAF Lakenheath is just 16 miles from the base of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, at Bury St Edmunds, which mainly recruits from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

Tributes continue to be paid to the latest members of the battalion to have been killed in Afghanistan since April, which rose to nine deaths as a result of last week's “friendly fire” incident.

Vi Currie grandmother of 19-year-old Private Aaron McClure, from Ipswich, said: “I used to cry for other people when I read about things like this and now it is happening to us. We want an investigation into this but I don't bear any grudges. I just feel the people who did it are probably feeling terrible.

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