Airmen killed by friendly fire

TWO British airmen whose RAF Tornado jet fell victim to "friendly fire" were tonight declared killed in action.The aircraft was downed by a US Patriot missile close to the Kuwaiti border while returning from a mission over Iraq in the early hours of this morning.

TWO British airmen whose RAF Tornado jet fell victim to "friendly fire" were tonight declared killed in action.

The aircraft was downed by a US Patriot missile close to the Kuwaiti border while returning from a mission over Iraq in the early hours of this morning.

Wing Commander Mike Oldham, acting station commander at RAF Marham in Norfolk, said tonight: "It has now been confirmed that they were both killed in action.

"Our thoughts and prayers are of course with the families and friends of the aircrew confirmed.


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"Here at RAF Marham we live and work as a very close team - today we have lost two valued members of that team.

"They were returning from one of many successful and professionally conducted missions in Iraq.

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"And I would like to pay tribute to their expertise and their dedication, it was a privilege to have worked along side them.

"You can be re-assured that a full investigation is under way.

"The next of kin have been informed and when it is appropriate we will give you more details.

"In the meantime I hope you will respect the privacy of the families at this difficult time.'

A spokesman for the base said it was not known when the crew would be named.

Today's accident was the third air disaster involving British servicemen - none caused by enemy fire - since the war began.

The Tornado GR4 was flying back to Ali Al Salem air base in Kuwait after a bombing run at around 2am.

It would have been delivering precision weapons such as Pathway or Storm Shadow missiles.

The commander of British forces in the Gulf, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, said the plane was shot down "by mistake', but vowed that relations with the Americans were as strong as ever.

He said at allied Central Command in Qatar: "A military campaign is probably the most intimate alliance you can implement.

"We have two nations who share the risks, share the dangers and share the rewards.

"You develop a bond of trust because you are taking on responsibility for each other's lives.'

Group Captain Al Lockwood, spokesman for British forces in the Gulf, vowed to get to the bottom of the incident so there was no repetition.

The number of UK soldiers killed by their US allies in "friendly fire' incidents in the 1991 Gulf War was nine - the same as the number killed by enemy fire.

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