Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, March 31, 2003

British Soldier Slams 'Cowboy' US Pilot over Friendly Fire

A British soldier who survived a fatal friendly fire incident has launched a scathing attack on the US pilot responsible for killing his comrade.


A British soldier who survived a fatal friendly fire incident has launched a scathing attack on the US pilot responsible for killing his comrade.

"He (the pilot) had absolutely no regard for human life. I believe he was a cowboy... He'd just gone out on a jolly," Lance Corporal Steven Gerrard told The Times of London, regarding the incident Friday.

Gerrard, 33, spoke to one of the paper's reporters from his bed aboard the British hospital ship Argus in the Gulf.

A British soldier was killed and four others were injured Friday in a friendly fire incident in southern Iraq, the fifth such casualty since the war began.

He was killed after an American A-10 tankbuster plane targeted two armoured vehicles near Iraq's second largest city Basra.

"You've got an A-10 with advanced technology and he can't use a thermal sight to identify whether a tank is a friend or foe. It's ridiculous," Gerrard said.

"Combat is what I've been trained for. I can command my vehicle. I can keep it from being attacked. What I have not been trained to do is look over my shoulder to see whether an American is shooting at me."

He added: "I'm curious about what's going to happen to the pilot. He's killed one of my friends."

Gerrard also criticised the pilot for shooting when there were civilians so close to the tanks.

"There was a boy of about 12 years old. He was no more than 20 metres (yards) away when the Yank opened up. There were all these civilians around."

Three of the injured British soldiers, including Gerrard, were flown home to Britain late Sunday after being treated for shrapnel wounds and burns. A fourth remained in the hospital ship's intensive care unit, according to The Times.

"After this I am quite pleased to be going home," one of the wounded, Lieutenant Alex MacEwen, told the paper.

"'Blue-on-blue' has always been one of my biggest fears. It is something that my friends and family joked about. 'Don't worry about the Iraqis, it's the Americans you want to watch'. The proof is in the pudding really."

The fatal incident brought to five the number of British soldiers who have been killed by friendly fire since the US-led war on Iraq began on March 20.

On March 23, a US anti-missile Patriot missile shot down a British Tornado bomber, killing both pilots on board. A day later, two soldiers were killed when a British Challenger tank mistakenly opened fire on another Challenger tank.

Source: agencies

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