Tornado downed by friendly fire

AN RAF aircraft which went missing with its crew during operations over Iraq may have been shot down by a US Patriot missile, it emerged today.Military sources said they had "evidence to suspect" that the aircraft - a two-man Tornado according to reports - was engaged by a Patriot battery near the Kuwaiti border on its return from a mission.

AN RAF aircraft which went missing with its crew during operations over Iraq may have been shot down by a US Patriot missile, it emerged today.

Military sources said they had "evidence to suspect" that the aircraft - a two-man Tornado according to reports - was engaged by a Patriot battery near the Kuwaiti border on its return from a mission.

Group Captain Al Lockwood, the spokesman for British forces in the Gulf, said evidence so far suggested that a US missile had hit the RAF plane.

He said the disappearance of the aircraft and crew was the subject of a joint probe by US and UK investigators.

Capt Lockwood said: "We will get to the bottom of it to make sure there is no repetition.''

There were fears too today that missing British TV reporter Terry Lloyd and two of his news crew may also have been hit by "friendly fire'' from coalition forces inside Iraq.

Most Read

The crew - including ITN cameraman Fred Nerac and local translator Hussein Othman - disappeared after the incident which happened as they were trying to get to the front at Basra.

Another cameraman, Daniel Demoustier, was injured as their two cars came under fire but he was able to get to safety.

Meanwhile as the conflict entered its fourth day, fresh fighting was under way in the Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr.

US Marines were involved in a fierce battle with Iraqi squads. They fired a missile, attacked with tanks and eventually called in air strikes to try to end resistance.

Speaking from the scene, Sky News correspondent David Bowden said: "We were all getting washed and having something to eat when all of a sudden this huge firefight broke out.

"As far as I know there were no casualties on the US and British side but I would expect the gunmen inside the building (Iraqis) are now all dead.''

There was also news of fresh US casualties with one American soldier killed and 13 injured in Kuwait following a grenade attack.

One American soldier was detained as a suspect after the attack in the command tent of a US 101st Airborne Division camp.

Officials said the motive for the attack, at 1.30am local time (10.30pm GMT yesterday), was most likely to be resentment.

Two B-52 bombers were seen to leave RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire overnight, and sporadic bombing continued in Baghdad.

By last night allied forces were half-way to the capital Baghdad.

The Prime Minister said coalition air strikes were designed to target Saddam Hussein's "levers of oppression and power'' and not the Iraqi people.

"We must realise that no matter how hard we try to avoid them, there will be civilian casualties.

"But while the dramatic TV pictures have shown the force of the attacks on Baghdad, they have also highlighted just how much effort has gone into safeguarding civilians and ensuring the targets are Saddam's regime and machinery of control and terror,'' he said.

Meanwhile a new poll showed public opinion had rallied sharply in support of the war against Iraq now that British forces are in action.

A YouGov survey found that 56% thought Britain and the US were right to take military action, with 36% opposed.

The figures were almost the exact reverse of a similar poll before the outbreak of hostilities when 36% backed military action with 57% against.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter