British coroner urges review after US friendly fire deaths

27th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British coroner called Tuesday for a change of battlefield rules to prevent a repetition of a US friendly fire incident that killed three British soldiers in Afghanistan.

David Masters made six recommendations after an inquest into the deaths of soldiers Aaron McClure, 19, Robert Foster, 19, and John Thrumble, 21, killed by a 500-pound (227-kilogramme) bomb dropped by a US aircraft.

The three men died on August 23, 2007, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province when a US F15 jet dropped the bomb on them instead of a Taliban position half a mile (one kilometre) further north.

Masters recommended that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) review six procedures, including back-up checks on grid references, the use of GPS locators, and headcounts after multiple deaths.

The inquest heard how Sergeant Mark Perren, a forward air controller, passed on an incorrect grid reference to an officer aboard the US aircraft. Perren was investigated but no charges were brought, the inquest was told.

The coroner said rules needed to be tightened to ensure those involved in such incidents were not a risk.

"There should be a review of the steps to be taken to assess the fitness and continuing competency following incidents where multiple deaths have occurred," said the coroner.

A total of 281 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since operations began in October 2001. Britain has around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, largely fighting the Taliban in Helmand.

© 2010 AFP

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