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British soldier killed in possible friendly fire

A British soldier was killed after armoured vehicles came under attack in a possible "friendly fire" incident in southern Iraq.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2003 19:20 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

A British soldier was killed after armoured vehicles came under attack in a possible "friendly fire" incident in southern Iraq, defense officials said on Saturday. Five other soldiers were injured.

The Ministry of Defence said it was investigating reports that soldiers of the Household Cavalry Regiment had been fired on by US warplanes on Friday.

"There is a suggestion this was a blue-on-blue incident," a spokeswoman said, using the military's term for accidental attacks on allied troops.

Group Capt Al Lockwood, a spokesman at coalition military headquarters in Qatar, confirmed the death and injuries in a "friendly fire" incident north of Basra.

Lockwood said the incident occurred at a time when British forces were engaging Iraqi troops, and a "large number" of coalition forces were in the area.

"We're trying now to clearly identify what happened," he said. Lockwood added that a report that several British soldiers had been kidnapped in Basra had proved incorrect. "We have checked and there are no soldiers missing," he said.

Britain's Press Association news agency, citing defence sources, said an American A-10 "tankbuster" plane targeted two British armoured vehicles near Basra, where British troops have been battling forces loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

On Friday, British troops fired on Iraqi paramilitary forces who turned machine guns and mortars on about 1,000 civilians trying to leave the besieged city, military officials and witnesses said. British and American military officials at Central Command in Doha, Qatar, also said they were investigating the incident.

The A-10 is designed to fly low in support of ground troops, swooping in to knock out tanks and deflect artillery fire. In the 1991 Gulf War, a US A-10 Thunderbolt _ predecessor of the current A-10 "Warthog" _ fire on a British armoured convoy, killing nine servicemen.

Britain has 45,000 personnel, including 26,000 soldiers, involved in the US-led war on Iraq.

The death would bring to five the number of British servicemen killed by "friendly fire" since the conflict began. Four have been killed in combat and 14 in accidents.

A military cargo plane returned 10 bodies to the Brize Norton Royal Air Force Base Saturday, the first of Britain's combat victims to be returned home.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Prince Andrew, a British navy veteran, joined in ceremonies as the coffins were unloaded.

First Published: Mar 29, 2003 19:20 IST