British soldier won’t face court-martial for 'friendly-fire' deaths
A British soldier will not face court-martial for mistakenly directing a U.S. fighter jet to attack a British camp in Afghanistan last year, the British army ruled Friday.
The errant bombing by the RAF Lakenheath-based F-15 killed three soldiers and injured two others in Helmand province in August 2007. The troops were under heavy enemy fire when the jet was called in to provide close-air support, according to British military officials.
The Army Prosecuting Authority "concluded that there is no realistic prospect of conviction" against the senior non-commissioned officer and that "it would not be in the public interest to prosecute him," according to a statement released by the agency. The agency decides whether courts-martial are warranted and also oversees military prosecutions for the British army.
Though the soldier will not face a trial, the British Ministry of Defence still "is considering whether to take internal administrative action against the (forward air controller,)" spokesman Paul Starbrook said Monday.
It was unclear when that decision would be made. An inquest into the incident by the Oxford Coroner’s office is also pending, he said.
Citing privacy guidelines, Starbrook would not identify the soldier but said he is still on active duty with the British army.
Starbrook would not comment on whether British military investigators have looked into the role the F-15 Eagle pilot and the aircraft’s weapons system officer played in the incident.
British Pvts. Aaron McClure and Robert Foster, both 19, and John Thrumble, 21, were deployed with the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment when they were killed in the friendly-fire incident. The unit is based in Bury St. Edmunds, just 20 miles from RAF Lakenheath.
British media reports Monday quoted numerous members of the victims’ families as saying they agreed with the decision not to court-martial the air traffic controller. "To put the full responsibility on one guy on the ground is wholly wrong," Steve Thrumble, father of John Thrumble, was quoted as saying in the East Anglian Daily Times.