Squaddies criticise American forces for 'ruining things'

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The Independent Online

As the Black Watch set up camp at their new base in the dangerous zone south of Baghdad yesterday, their soldiers voiced anger over their deadly new mission.

As the Black Watch set up camp at their new base in the dangerous zone south of Baghdad yesterday, their soldiers voiced anger over their deadly new mission.

Commanders refused to confirm the exact location for the controversial deployment until the 850-strong battle group had secured its base of operations 30 miles from the capital. The area is a hotbed of Islamic terrorists, where rocket attacks, suicide bombers and kidnappings are common. Black Watch soldiers being airlifted north by Hercules C-130 transporters from their base in Basra were promised they would be pulled out of Iraq in early December after their 30-day tour.

But despite the pledge by Colonel James Bashall, chief of staff of the British-led Multinational Division in Iraq, many soldiers are upset. Private Manny Lynch, 19, from Fife, said: "I'm nervous and angry. I was supposed to be going home last Monday and I only found out I was being deployed four days before. It wouldn't have bothered me so much if I had been told when they first knew about it, but finding out just days before I was to go home is hard to take.

"We have heard a lot about the 'Triangle of Death', which makes everyone nervous because it seems much worse up there than it has been down here. We have controlled the situation down here while the Americans seemed to have ruined it up there."

Pte Ian Gordon, 19, from Edinburgh, added: "They are more hostile towards coalition forces up there. In Basra and the south, there is militia trouble but smaller numbers. We've been given extra training in different situations we may face, and different environments. The things we've been told to look out for are vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. I think we'll definitely be keeping our helmets on in the early days.

"My folks are quite upset that I'm not coming back and I was feeling pretty low when I first heard, but morale is higher now because we're heading out."

Ben Brereton, a 19-year-old craftsman in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, from Truro in Cornwall, said he was unsure why British troops were being moved. "I feel angry and wonder why we are going there," he said. "It seems we are moving up there to take over a piece of ground while the Americans push off.

"They have got so many more people over here, more than 10 times what we have, and we're having to go and help them out. I don't know how they justify it, but now we're on our way there's nothing you can do, so you just want to get it over with and get home. If they had told us sooner it wouldn't have felt so bad, but it was the fact that we were ready to go home that left us feeling gutted."

An Army spokesman said the advance group of the Black Watch and armoured vehicles had reached their unnamed destination without incident.

This is a pooled despatch from Padraic Flanagan of the Daily Express.

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