Essex soldiers suffer again in conflict

AN Essex-based army regiment has been hit with a further blow this morning after it emerged that nine of its soldiers were injured in a 'friendly fire' incident in Afghanistan.

Anthony Bond

AN Essex-based army regiment has been hit with a further blow this morning after it emerged that nine of its soldiers were injured in a 'friendly fire' incident in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence said that a British Apache helicopter - based at RAF Wattisham near Ipswich - opened fire on troops from Colchester-based 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment on Wednesday.

It follows a dreadful month for the military town after seven soldiers from the garrison were killed in Afghanistan in just three weeks in June.

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Colchester MP Bob Russell said last night: “I am obviously concerned to hear about this and there needs to be a full enquiry into what went wrong because clearly something did.

“The important thing is that we hope the three injured soldier's make a full recovery and I think that it would be inappropriate to start commenting beyond that other than it was a very unfortunate incident to say the least.”

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One seriously injured soldier was flown back to the UK and is described as being in a stable condition while two others remain at Camp Bastion medical centre in Helmand province.

Six other injured soldiers have since returned to duty. Next of kin have been informed.

An MOD statement said that at about 12.27pm on Wednesday a routine British patrol requested fire support from a British Apache when they encountered enemy forces.

“After successfully engaging one enemy position, the Apache fired upon another position which the crew believed to be held by enemy forces. However, in the confusion of a rapidly changing situation and in what is a challenging environment, it would appear that friendly forces were mistaken for the enemy and as a result three members of the patrol were seriously wounded and six more were classified as walking wounded.

“The seriously wounded personnel were moved by helicopter to Camp Bastion medical facilities. An investigation is under way into how the incident occurred and it would be inappropriate to comment until that investigation is complete.”

A total of seven soldiers based in Colchester have lost their lives in the conflict in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal James Bateman and Pte Sean Doherty were killed in Taliban fire on June 12 during a routine foot patrol near their base in the Upper Gereshk Valley in Helmand Province.

Just four days earlier on June 8 Pte Charles David Murray, Pte Nathan Cuthbertson, 19, and Pte Daniel Gamble, 22, were killed in a suicide blast by a lone insurgent as their foot patrol returned to base in the Upper Sangin Valley.

At the end of June Sergeant Major Michael Williams, who was also a member 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, was killed when he came under Taliban fire and warrant officer 2nd Class Dan Shirley, from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, died when his vehicle rolled during a patrol from Sangin to Camp Bastion.

The British Apache helicopter involved is based at RAF Wattisham near Ipswich after the army took the decision in August last year to move all operational Apaches to the airfield.

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