Waco raid inquiry finds grave errors

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Top government officials made serious errors in launching a raid on cult leader David Koresh's Texas compound and should have aborted the mission after the element of surprise was lost, investigators said yesterday.

A new report blamed the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) - a wing of the Treasury Department - for the botched raid in which four federal agents were killed and more than 20 wounded by waiting, heavily armed cult members.

'ATF Director Stephen Higgins assured Treasury the raid would not proceed if the element of surprise was lost,' the Treasury Secretary, Lloyd Bentsen, said in releasing the report into the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas on 28 February.

'It is now clear that those in charge in Texas realised that they had lost the element of surprise before the raid began,' said Mr Bentsen. 'They erred by failing to abort the mission.' Mr Bentsen repeatedly called the decision to proceed 'an absolute violation of instructions'.

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