US military could reject inquest request

UNITED States military will continue to reject all requests for its personnel to attend inquests into friendly fire deaths of British troops, the Ministry of Defence claimed today.

UNITED States military will continue to reject all requests for its personnel to attend inquests into friendly fire deaths of British troops, the Ministry of Defence claimed today.

This could mean that the family of Private Aaron McClure, from Ipswich, who was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, may not see those who could be responsible for his death, face questioning.

It has also emerged that the plane which dropped the bomb on Pte McClure and his colleagues was one based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

The MoD's letter to coroners in England and Wales, shown to a national newspaper, reads: “The US have confirmed categorically that they will not provide witnesses to attend UK inquests.

“While coroners may continue to ask for US witnesses to attend...they should be aware that there will in all cases be a refusal.”

Ptes McClure, 19, of Marlow Road, Ipswich, John Thrumble, 21, from Chelmsford, and Robert Foster, 19, from Harlow, were killed when an American F15 fighter jet dropped a bomb from an aircraft based at RAF Lakenheath.

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The document also stated that the MoD will have to return all classified US military reports after completing boards of inquiry into combat deaths.

Coroners have warned they may mount a legal challenge to these arrangements, arguing they could prevent families getting a “full and fair” inquiry, according to reports.

The MoD said the letter was intended to guide coroners and did not represent a change of position.

An MoD spokesman said: “Both the US and UK work together to investigate the circumstances surrounding friendly fire incidents and their findings are made available to the coroner, as national and operational security and data protection allow.”

An investigation is now underway into the deaths of the three soldiers.

A MoD spokesman said an investigation has now been launched and is expected to be lengthy.

A statement released by the United States Embassy said: “This matter will be thoroughly investigated.

“The United States expresses its deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the soldiers who died, and we wish those who were injured a speedy recovery.

“The UK soldiers were serving under the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force, which is helping the Afghan people to build a peaceful, prosperous, and stable country.”

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