|US jet kills three British soldiers in 'friendly fire' blunder in Afghanistan
24th August 2007
Three British soldiers were killed by a bomb dropped on their position by a US war plane during fierce fighting in Afghanistan, it was confirmed today.
At least two other men from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment were injured in the friendly fire incident. One of these was described as critically ill.
The 60-strong foot patrol had called in air support after they came under intense attack from Taliban insurgents in Helmand province yesterday evening.
The MoD said the men were killed by a "single bomb" dropped from one of two US F15 aircraft called to help repel the enemy.
A statement said: "Their patrol was attacked and during the intense engagement that ensued, close air support was called in from two US F15 aircraft.
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"A single bomb was dropped and it is believed the explosion killed all three soldiers who were declared dead at the scene."
The injured soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to the medical facility at Camp Bastion, the UK headquarters, for treatment.
The next of kin have been informed, the MoD said, adding the incident was one of "profound sadness." Officials said an investigation is now under way.
A spokesman for British troops in Helmand Province, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Mayo, told the BBC that of the two wounded soldiers, one was very seriously injured and the other was seriously injured.
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."
The two injured soldiers were evacuated to Camp Bastion. He added: "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 in southern Afghanistan.
"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."
The deaths take the toll of all British dead in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001 to 73. There have been 11 deaths in the last two months during increasingly heavy fighting.
The Royal Anglians, which have been based at Pirbright in Surrey for about five years, have been one of the regiments hardest hit by the fighting in Afghanistan.
There has now been a total of nine soldiers killed from the regiment. It is one of the worst casualty rates since Operation Herrick, the campaign in Afghanistan, began in 2001.
In March 2003 Lance Corporal Matty Hull was killed and three other British soldiers injured when a US plane fired on them by mistake despite their vehicles being clearly marked.
Yesterday's "fighting patrol" was intended to disrupt Taliban activity and reassure local residents north west of Kajaki in Helmund, they called for air support. A bomb was dropped and unfortunately three of our guys were killed," said a source.
The MoD said: "It was an airstrike which British soldiers called in and what went wrong will be subject to an investigation."
A spokesman said that there well- rehearsed systems between the allies to try to prevent friendly fire incidents.
"There's a raft of mechanism in place to try to prevent these things. But these are daily occurances and these air strikes have saved the lives of countless British soldiers. In combat nothing is 100 per cent fool proof," he said.
The troops were part of an operation to secure the Kajaki damn - described by the military as one of the most strategically important sights in Southern Afghanistan.
British forces and engineers are trying to repair the hydroelectric damn so it can provide power for the Helmand province.
"Our troops have been wor