Red Caps tragedy inquiry cites poor communications, confusion and too few bullets

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An Army Board of inquiry into the killing of six Royal Military Police by a mob in Iraq today found "no conclusive evidence" that their deaths could have been prevented.

An Army Board of inquiry into the killing of six Royal Military Police by a mob in Iraq today found "no conclusive evidence" that their deaths could have been prevented.

However the board identified several factors which it said "influenced events on the day" and issued a series of recommendations to improve communications, command and control, and the issuing of equipment on operations.

Its findings included:

* An instruction that soldiers should carry 150 rounds of ammunition each had not reached the RMP, who were only carrying 50 rounds.

* Radio communications in the area of the attack were "poor" due to environmental reasons and the RMP did not have a satellite telephone to back up their radios.

* Command relationships between the 1 Para battlegroup and the RMP platoon were somewhat "confused", which contributed to the uncertainty over the procedures governing the co–ordination and control of RMP patrols.

The board stated that although there were a number of events which may have had a bearing on the deaths of the RMP "it is impossible to state categorically that their fate would have been different if they had carried more ammunition or if communications had been better".

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon acknowledged that some of the families had been critical of the Army's response to the deaths, but said that the RMP had suffered a "surprise attack which could not reasonably have been predicted".

"This shocking incident was a terrible loss for the British Army and struck a grievous blow to the families of the six soldiers," he said.

"I recognise that nothing can relieve the pain of loss, but I hope that the findings of the Board of Inquiry will give the families a much better understanding of the events leading up to the deaths of their loved ones."

President of the Board of Inquiry, Colonel Mike Hickson said that it was not their job to apportion blame or to replace police and coroner's investigations which were still ongoing.

"This Board of Inquiry has been rigorous, objective and exhaustive," he said.

"We have left no stone unturned in our efforts to find out as much as we can about the circumstances of these tragic deaths – and have recommended a number of improvements to military procedures for the future."

The six RMP were killed when they were attacked by an Iraqi mob in the town of Al Majarr Al Kabir on 24 June.

The board found that in the period leading up to the incident, the area was "relatively benign" and that the majority of the local population was thought to be pro-coalition.

Al Majarr was recognised as a "sensitive area" because of tensions over searches by British troops for weapons. However there had been a written agreement with local tribal leaders that patrols would continue.

The six-strong RMP patrol, led by Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, had planned to visit the town's police station to ask why local police had not helped a Parachute Regiment patrol when they were stoned two days earlier.

* In Iraq today a Black Watch soldier was seriously injured after his Warrior armoured fighting vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Camp Dogwood. He was airlifted to Baghdad but his condition is not thought to be life-threatening.

Earlier, soldiers from the Queen's Dragoon Guards were targeted by a suicide bomber in a car near the camp. The car detonated but no British soldiers were killed or injured.