Hoon attacked for citing 'sports' injuries in Iraq

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, was criticised yesterday after playing down the extent of injuries suffered by some of the British servicemen hurt in Iraq during and since the war.

Mr Hoon angered critics of the conflict by saying that some of the 790 personnel evacuated from Iraq suffered their injuries while playing sport or in road accidents. He was accused of covering up the scale of casualties suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein's forces and rebels.

The Defence Secretary said: "The 790 service personnel evacuated from Iraq have a full range of injuries, from relatively minor shrapnel wounds and sprained ankles through broken limbs to the more serious injuries caused by enemy action. It is also worth noting that some of the injuries resulted from road traffic accidents and sport."

The ministry was unable to provide any figures on the number of injuries resulting from sport and road accidents, saying statistics were being compiled.

Peter Kilfoyle, a former defence minister, said: "Mr Hoon's statement could upset the families of servicemen seriously injured by enemy fire. It seems to denigrate what they have done and their role. It is all of a piece with the failure to come clean on how many Iraqis have been killed or injured."