Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, June 22, 1999 Published at 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK


Nato bomb caused Gurkha deaths

Checking for mines is a skilled but dangerous task

The two British soldiers killed in an explosion while moving Nato cluster bombs in Kosovo have been named.

Lieutenant Gareth Evans, 25, from Bristol and Sergeant Balaram Rai, 35, who lived in Nepal were on peacekeeping duties. They were moving unexploded bombs away from a school building at the request of Albanian villagers, military sources in Kosovo said.

Brits in Balkans
Both were members of the 69th Gurkha Field Squadron, part of the 36th Engineer Regiment based at Maidstone, Kent. The UK military confirmed on Tuesday that the bomb was of Nato origins.

Ben Brown reports: "It's Nato's task to pick up the litter of war"
Two Kosovo Albanians were also killed and another was in hospital with shrapnel wounds to the chest. A fourth was believed to have been taken away by the villagers after suffering minor injuries.

The news follows a British military investigation into the explosion in Negrovce, near the town of Orahovac. Lt Evans and Sgt Rai were were the first Nato deaths since the alliance began peacekeeping duties in Kosovo.

[ image: One of the casualties is stretchered away]
One of the casualties is stretchered away
Villagers had found what were described as "substantial quantities" of Nato cluster bombs. They gathered on Monday to pile them them by the schoolhouse, aided by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The bombs were moved because a local doctor did not want them to be exploded where they lay. He thought it would hold back rebuilding work in the badly damaged village.

Lt Evans said the bombs could be moved, and they were separated into three piles for detonation by specialist soldiers.

UK military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Nick Clissitt said: "It was during the wiring of the charges that two piles detonated prematurely with tragic results."

'They know the risks'

Major Andy Edington, second in command of the 36th Engineer Regiment, spoke of his sadness at the death of his colleague Lt Evans.

"For any of those who knew the soldiers it is a shock and our thoughts go out to their families," Major Edington said.

Kosovo: Special Report
But he said troops in Maidstone were much "calmer" following the identification of the two soldiers, after "nervous anticipation" before the announcement.

"There will be sadness for those who knew them," he added.

Lt Col Clissitt said the explosion was "a danger that troops in the British Army live with".

"They know the risks," he said. "They are prepared for the dangers and we get on with the business in hand".

Bomb fragments

Cluster bombs are the most effective weapon for use against troops, he added.

Capable of killing large numbers of people, the bombs split into several pieces after being dropped from a plane and spread over a wide area. Military experts estimate that about 10% may not explode when they land.

Local people said about 50 separate fragments of unexploded ordnance had been collected from the school when one piece exploded, leaving a large crater.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has led the tributes to the two Gurkhas. He said: "It shows the dangers that our forces are running the entire time in Kosovo.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair pays tribute to the soldiers' bravery
"It does underscore the bravery of our troops, their courage, their fortitude and the debt we owe them."

General Sir Michael Jackson, the British commander of the international peacekeeping force, said: "However much one talks about mines, unexploded ordnance and booby traps it appears we all have to learn the hard way.

General Sir Michael Jackson: "It's extremely sad"
"That is what happened today. It's extremely sad. The day started very well but the thought of two guys losing their lives is not good."

Gurkhas were among the first Nato troops to enter Kosovo as part of the international peacekeeping force K-For.

They helped take control of high ground on the strategic road from Blace, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to Pristina.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

22 Jun 99 | Europe
The deadly debris of war

21 Jun 99 | UK
Balkan sweethearts marry in UK

21 Jun 99 | UK
Blast kills British Army soldiers

21 Jun 99 | UK Politics
Blair reveals refugee return date

21 Jun 99 | Europe
'Widespread' use of land-mines

21 Jun 99 | Europe
Kosovo rebels to disarm

13 Jun 99 | UK
Gurkhas: A force to be reckoned with

Internet Links


The Royal Gurkha Regiment

Serb Ministry of Information

Kosovo Crisis Centre

The British Army

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online