Monday, 31 March 2003

Wounded British soldiers condemn US 'cowboy' pilot

British soldiers injured when a US "tankbuster" aircraft attacked their convoy, killing one of their comrades, hit out angrily at the "cowboy" pilot today.

Troops wounded in Friday's attack accused the A-10 Thunderbolt pilot of "incompetence and negligence" while others privately called for a manslaughter prosecution.

The comments came as America's most senior military official vowed to make it his quest to stop future "friendly fire" tragedies.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologised for the deadly error by the A-10 in southern Iraq.

He told BBC1's Breakfast With Frost: "It's the absolute saddest tragedy that any of us can experience.

"I don't think we have to live with situations like that, and one of my jobs has to be to ensure that we get the resources and the technical means to ensure that in the future this never, never happens again. And that will be my quest."

But the crews of the two British forward reconnaissance Scimitars which were attacked by the A-10 could not contain their anger.

Lance Corporal of Horse Steven Gerrard, speaking from his bed on the RFA Argus in the Gulf, said: "I can command my vehicle. I can keep it from being attacked. What I have not been trained to do is look over my shoulder to see whether an American is shooting at me."

LCoH Gerrard, the commander of the leading vehicle, described to Patrick Barkham of The Times how the deadly A-10 attack began.

The pilot made two swoops. "I will never forget that noise as long as I live. It is a noise I never want to hear again," he said.

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