Friendly fire dead named as US opens inquiry

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The Independent US

Three soldiers killed in Afghanistan in a "friendly fire" incident were named by the Ministry of Defence last night. Privates Aaron McClure, Robert Foster and John Thrumble, from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment, were killed on Thursday during an encounter with Taliban fighters near Kajaki in Helmand province.

During the battle, air support was requested from two US F15 aircraft, which mistakenly bombed a compound where the three soldiers were based. Two other soldiers from the regiment were seriously injured in the bombing raid and they were evacuated to Camp Bastion for treatment.

The MoD and the US State Department have begun investigations into the incident. "The United States is deeply saddened by the death of three British soldiers in Afghanistan and the wounding of two others in a friendly fire incident involving ordnance dropped by US aircraft," said Kurt Volker of the State Department.

The State Department pledged to carry out a thorough inquiry, which is likely to focus on the breakdown in communications between ground and air forces.

The British government is facing renewed criticism for failing to give troops the technology to help stop such incidents. It has refused to pay for a combat identification system to protect troops from mistaken attacks by allies.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, said friendly fire incidents were rare, and that there would be a thorough investigation. He said that US air support had often helped to get British in Afghanistan troops out of trouble in the past, but that human error was always a possibility in combat situations.

Pte Aaron McClure

The 19-year-old was on his first operational tour after joining the Army in 2006. He had served in Afghanistan since March. Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Carver, his commanding officer, said it was tragic that an accident had succeeded in killing Pte McClure where the Taliban had failed.

Pte Robert Foster

The 19-year-old also joined the Army last year and showed "limitless reserves of courage beyond his years", his commanding officer said yesterday.

Pte John Thrumble

The 21-year-old had already served in Iraq after joining the Army in 2004, and was tipped for promotion to Lance Corporal. "Although John loved his family dearly, he had become attached to his second family, B Company 'The Vikings'," Stephen Thrumble, his father, said last night.