Paratrooper killed in Macedonia flown back for burial

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The Independent Online

The body of Sapper Ian Collins, the British soldier killed in Macedonia this week, was flown home for burial on Friday.

Sapper Collins, 22, of 9 Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers, died after being hit by a block of concrete as he was driving through the suburbs of Skopje on the first day of the current Nato mission to disarm Albanian rebels.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has demanded that the Macedonian government carry out a full inquiry into the killing, which led to questioning by Sapper Collins' family and politicians about the British presence in the Balkan country.

His father, Kevin Collins, described the death as a "terrible waste", adding: "I don't think our soldiers should be there. Kosovo was different. A lot of innocent people were getting hurt. This is a civil conflict with two factions fighting amongst themselves."

Mr Collins, 44, of Kiveton Park, Sheffield, said his son's body would be flown into RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire later today and would be met by family members. A private funeral, with full military honours, would be held at a later date in Sheffield.

Mr Straw, defending the Government's decision to commit troops, said the soldier's death was "untimely and completely unnecessary" and said he shared the grief of his family and friends. But he added that Britain's participation in the Nato operation Essential Harvest was justified to prevent another bloody Balkans conflict.

"Coming as it did right at the beginning of the operation it was bound to raise, in very stark terms, questions about this operation which otherwise would not have been raised," he said. Mr Straw added that he would be asking President Trajkovski of Macedonia what progress was being made in the investigation into the killing.

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