Pastor 'shames' Blair and Bush at funeral of Scottish soldier

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Indy Politics

A church minister addressing mourners at the funeral of a British soldier killed in Iraq blamed Tony Blair and President George Bush yesterday for his death.

John Mann, an American pastor in the Church of Scotland, said the two leaders were responsible for the loss of 19-year-old Gordon Gentle and he hoped their hearts would be inscribed with the words "shame on you".

The passionate condemnation was made in front of 800 people at the funeral of Fusilier Gentle in a Glasgow suburb. The 6ft 2in soldier, nicknamed "Soft", was killed 10 days ago when a home-made bomb exploded under his Land Rover while he was on patrol in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

He had joined the Royal Highland Fusiliers three months before his deployment to Iraq and had just finished basic training.

His family has claimed he was not sufficiently prepared for the specific threats from guerrilla groups leading the Iraqi insurgency. But the Ministry of Defence has denied that the soldier, the first from his regiment to be killed by hostile fire in 24 years, was insufficiently prepared for operations in Iraq.

Dr Mann, pastor at St James' Parish Church close to Fusilier Gentle's home in Pollok, said he had died fighting an unjust war.

Dr Mann told mourners: "I want to believe that, if there is a God in heaven, then there will be justice, because I want someone to pay for Gordon's death. If I were to point them out, I would say to President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair that I have ... three words of admonishment. And I pray they may some day be inscribed on the tablets of your hearts. Those ... words are 'shame on you'."

Fusilier Gentle, who was the 60th British soldier killed in Iraq, died when his vehicle passed by a bomb hidden in the roadside. The attack, an hour after sovereignty was passed to an interim government, left two of his comrades seriously injured.

The teenager's mother, Rose, blamed Mr Blair and Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, for the death. She said last week: "My son was just a bit of meat to them ... My son died in their war."

As well as basic training, Fusilier Gentle went on a week-long course in convoy tactics and ambush awareness. But MoD officials said in "exceptional circumstances" some troops have been sent to Iraq without completing the necessary awareness course on guerrilla tactics.

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