Two missing soldiers from Essex barracks
TWO British soldiers reported missing, believed killed, after an attack on their Land Rover in southern Iraq were identified tonight.The Ministry of Defence in London said the men were Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, of north London, and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, from Essex.
TWO British soldiers reported missing, believed killed, after an attack on their Land Rover in southern Iraq were identified tonight.
The Ministry of Defence in London said the men were Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, of north London, and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, from Essex.
Both were members of 33 (EOD) Engineer Regiment, a specialist bomb disposal unit of the Royal Engineers, based at Carver Barracks, Wimbish, Essex.
Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier condemned footage on Arabic satellite broadcaster al-Jazeera apparently showing the two men after they were allegedly executed as an act of cruelty beyond comprehension.
The deaths of Sapper Allsopp and Sgt Cullingworth brings the British war dead to 22, four in combat and 18 in accidents or by so-called "friendly fire".
On a visit to America, Mr Blair expressed his horror at the television pictures and said the atrocity was a "flagrant' breach of the Geneva Convention as well as further evidence of the depravity of Saddam Hussein's regime.
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Offering his condolences to the families and friends of the men, whose bodies were shown lying spread-eagled on a dusty road, he pledged to bring a "better future' to the people of Iraq by ending Saddam's reign of fear.
Describing the images as a "reality' of the Iraqi dictator's regime he said: "His thugs prepared to kill their own people, the parading of prisoners of war, and now the release of those pictures of executed British soldiers.
"If anyone needed any further evidence of the depravity of Saddam's regime, this atrocity provides it.
"It is yet one more flagrant breach of all the proper conventions of war.
"More than that, to the families of the soldiers involved, it is an act of cruelty beyond comprehension. Indeed, it is beyond the comprehension of anyone with an ounce of humanity in their souls.
"On behalf of the British Government, I would like to offer my condolences particularly to the families and friends of those two brave young men who died in the service of their country and of the ordinary Iraqi people to whom we are determined to bring a better future.'
The footage, which lasted less than 30 seconds, showed the pair lying near their vehicle and on their backs. One of the soldiers appeared to have been shot in the chest while the other's wounds were unclear.
The Ministry of Defence had earlier said they assumed the bodies were those of the men who went missing in fighting around the town of Al Zubayr, 15 miles outside the second city of Basra, on Sunday.
Two other men, who were also paraded on television, were tonight confirmed as "civilian sub-contractors' and not soldiers.
News reports said they were Kenyans working as aid convoy drivers.
Their next of kin have been informed, said the MoD spokesman.
British military commanders said they were "shocked and appalled' by the graphic film of the dead soldiers.
The commander of UK forces in the Gulf, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, described as "deplorable' the decision by the al-Jazeera TV station to broadcast the footage, adding: "All media must be aware of the limits of taste and decency.'
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, speaking at a central London briefing, joined the Prime Minister in condemning the "appalling' television footage of the two dead servicemen.
"We have yet to be able to undertake a formal identification, but I do regret to say that we do believe that the pictures are of two of our servicemen who up to now have been listed as being missing.
"Next of kin have been informed and on behalf of the Government, I offer my condolences to the families and friends of these two servicemen who died in the service of their country.'
It was the third time in four days that shocking film of allied soldiers, captured or killed, had been shown on television.
Seven US army mechanics died and five were taken prisoner on Sunday after they took a wrong turn and ran into an ambush in Nasiriyah.
A video broadcast later on al-Jazeera showed several of the troops with bullet wounds to the head which suggested they may have been executed.
The five captured soldiers, including a woman, were paraded on TV in breach of the Geneva Convention governing PoWs which states they cannot be shown on television if it is to degrade them or expose them to "public curiosity'.
A day later footage of two US pilots was broadcast after their Apache attack helicopter came down near Karbala, south of Baghdad.
Later, asked what evidence Mr Blair had for his use of the word execution to describe the killing of the soldiers, the Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters travelling with the Premier: "It is terrible to talk in these terms but since we don't have the two bodies we cannot be absolutely sure.
"But every piece of information we have points in the direction of these men having been executed in a very brutal fashion.
"That evidence includes the fact that the two bodies were some distance from the vehicles in which they were travelling, they had lost their protective equipment. I accept that's not absolute evidence but it points in that direction. The Americans have said also that there is some evidence of their soldiers being killed in that fashion.'