TODAY.AZ / Politics

Video of U.S. friendly fire unleashes storm in UK

07 February 2007 [03:11] - TODAY.AZ
U.S. and British officials denied trying to bury details of a "friendly fire" incident on Tuesday when a cockpit video was leaked in which U.S. pilots are heard weeping after mistakenly killing a British soldier in Iraq.

A British coroner's inquest into the death of Lance Corporal Matty Hull has reignited questions over whether the allies did enough to shield troops from friendly fire -- and whether both countries wanted to keep the details hidden.

"I'm going to be sick," one pilot in an A-10 attack jet can be heard saying when he realizes he has opened fire on a friendly convoy. "We're in jail, dude."

Another pilot is later heard weeping: "I'm dead."

Hull was killed when his convoy of light British tanks was strafed by American A-10 attack jets during the second week of the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Coroner Andrew Walker suspended his probe last week after he learned that there was a cockpit video which he had not been allowed to use or to show the family.

Washington had given the video to British authorities but refused to allow it to be shown to the coroner, saying it might contain security secrets. The British government denied hiding it but said it could not release it without U.S. permission.

After the video was shown all day on UK television, a U.S. defense official said it could now form part of the inquest.

"We have authorized the UK Ministry of Defense to display the full video in camera to the coroner and the family in the presence of a Ministry of Defense authority," a Pentagon official said on condition of anonymity.

Washington said its own investigation exonerated the pilots.

"The investigators determined that the pilots followed the procedures and processes for engaging targets," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

But U.S. officials have refused British requests to send the pilots to travel to Britain to testify in the inquest.

Hull's widow said she was glad the video was now public.

"I would have preferred to hear the evidence from the U.S. pilots themselves. However, they cannot be compelled to come and they have not come voluntarily. The video is therefore vital evidence and must be shown," Susan Hull said in a statement.

"After years of being told that it did not exist or was secret I feel that it was right not to give up hope."

Friendly fire has been a burning issue for both countries since the first Gulf War in 1991, when nine British servicemen were killed in a mistaken attack by U.S. aircraft.

Precautions have since been taken -- orange panels were fitted to allied vehicles to alert pilots during the 2003 invasion. The pilots on the tape can be heard concluding the panels were "orange rocket launchers" before opening fire.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said reports of the transcripts of the incident showed a "clear expression of remorse" from those involved.

"These people immediately understood that this just was a terrible, terrible mistake and that they felt an immediate remorse for what happened," McCormack told reporters. Reuters


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