Letter: `Nerve gas' doubts

Sir: I was interested to read, among the various sources of evidence considered by the US government in justifying the bombing of the factory in Khartoum, the suggestion that "the CIA employed banded migratory birds" in the hope of collecting evidence (report, 25 August).

I had no idea that covert operations had reached such a level of sophistication and I applaud the sheer audacity and imagination of using a flock of hand- picked, highly trained swallows for reconnaissance missions. These plucky feathered heroes brilliantly met their objective of seeking out information on terrorist activities. I think there is more to this than meets the eye. For example, was another team involved at ground level, ostriches perhaps, tasked with objective of illuminating the target with lasers for the US Air Force?

However, maybe now is not the time to press too hard for information about the courageous feats of these operatives. They will no doubt be too exhausted from their long flight and debriefing at Langley. Their story will be told in time. In the meantime, I salute their bravery and rest assured that this bombing was carried out on the basis of rock-solid evidence.

I will now write to the Ministry of Defence to point out the merits of training badgers in tank warfare.

JONATHAN FAIRCLOUGH

Basildon, Essex

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