Argentine army probes evidence over shooting

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THE ARGENTINE government yesterday described evidence that British paratroopers shot one of their soldiers in the head after he surrendered during the Falklands war as 'extremely serious'.

This follows the testimony in yesterday's Independent of a former Argentine soldier who told how he survived the attempted execution. His case is being investigated by the Argentine defence ministry.

Oscar Carrizo, 33, who, as a corporal, commanded a mortar group during the war, alleged he was left blind in one eye after being shot and left for dead on 12 June 1982. His story was supported by another war veteran who said that he witnessed the shooting while hiding 30 metres away.

Detectives from Scotland Yard who are carrying out an investigation into alleged British war crimes during the conflict are expected to visit Buenos Aires within the next two months and are likely to interview Mr Carrizo.

Mr Carrizo fought in the battle for Mount Longdon, one of the bloodiest of the war. He said that he was hiding from a passing British patrol when he felt a tap on his helmet. Turning round, he saw two British paratroopers.

'I stood up with my gun,' he said. 'They made signs about my gun. I handed it over . . . One of them, the one with the narrow eyes, said to me, in his language, 'American. Green beret.' I have no idea what he meant. Then one of them fired and I felt nothing.

'When I got up I was dizzy and sick. I took off my helmet and I saw the exit hole, like a little flower. I touched my head and felt something hard and then something soft that the doctor later told me was brain. My hand moved down on to my face where I felt some blood and I came across my eye, hanging down my face. I put it back where it belonged.'

Mr Carrizo was later picked up by British medics and treated on board a British hospital ship before being returned to Argentina. He survived his injuries, although he lost the use of his left eye.

Mr Carrizo said: 'I am really very grateful to the British. First they executed me, then they saved my life. And life is very sweet.'

The secretary of military affairs in the Argentine defence ministry, Dr Juan Ferreira Pino, said yesterday: 'We are investigating his (Mr Carrizo's) case within the armed forces and we will inform the foreign ministry when the investigaton is concluded - without doubt, it's something serious.

'We don't doubt what Carrizo says. He is a serious and responsible man who had never tried to draw attention to himself. Quite the contrary.'

Mr Carrizo, he said, has given evidence to the internal army inquiry, along with the witness, Santiago Mambrin. Dr Ferreira Pino stressed, however, that Mr Carrizo's case was the only one of its kind to have come to the attention of the Argentinian authorities.

He said: 'The feeling of those Argentinian officers who fought in 1982 was that it was, in general, a war that was fought within the correct norms. There may have been individual cases of such behaviour, but it would be wrong to suggest that it was widespread.'

The allegations of British war crimes during the Falklands conflict were, he said, 'a very important matter as far as Argentinian public opinion is concerned. But so far the public reaction has been mature.'

The Argentinian foreign minister, Guido di Tella, a former fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, is on a private visit to Britain. Last Tuesday, Mr Di Tella lunched with the Foreign Office minister, Tristan Garel- Jones, and discussed a range of issues. He also had a meeting last week with Falkland Islanders who are living in the UK.

The Scotland Yard inquiry began after Vincent Bramley, a former lance-corporal in 3 Para, alleged in his book Excursion to Hell that fellow paratroopers had executed Argentine prisoners after the battle for Mount Longdon.

Although Scotland Yard detectives have visited the Falkland Islands twice they have not yet questioned Argentine veterans. The police carried out excavations on Mount Longdon, with assistance from a former British soldier who served in the war.