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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 00:10 GMT 01:10 UK
US army 'exploited Tillman death'
The late American football star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman
The truth about Pat Tillman's death was concealed for weeks
The brother of former American football star Pat Tillman, killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, has accused the US military of manipulating his death.

Kevin Tillman said that by claiming Cpl Tillman had died fighting the enemy in 2004, the army had tried to "hijack his virtue and his legacy".

He was testifying to a congressional panel investigating if misinformation from the battlefield was deliberate.

Jessica Lynch, an injured US soldier rescued in Iraq in 2003, also spoke.

Questions have been raised over the details of her capture and subsequent rescue by US forces, with the US defence department accused of turning the episode into a public relations exercise.

Pte Lynch told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that US officials' accounts of her fiercely fighting the enemy were not true and that most of her injuries were from a road accident.

"The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don't need to be told elaborate tales," she said.

'Hero's death'

Last month, a Pentagon watchdog confirmed that Cpl Tillman's family had not been told the truth about his death for more than a month, even though commanders knew soon after his death that he had probably been killed by fellow soldiers.

We believe this narrative was intended to deceive the family but more importantly the American public
Kevin Tillman

The Pentagon's inspector general recommended action be taken against nine officers over the matter, but found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and no deliberate cover-up.

In an emotional address to the panel, Kevin Tillman accused the military of exploiting his brother's death.

He claimed a decision had been made to cover up the real cause of Cpl Tillman's death - the recklessness of some of his fellow soldiers - and portray it as a heroic event, at a time when US wars overseas were unpopular.

"This freshly manufactured narrative was then distributed to the American public and we believe the strategy had the intended effect," he said.

"It shifted the focus from the grotesque torture at Abu Ghraib [jail] and a downward spiral of an illegal act of aggression to a great American who died a hero's death.

"We believe this narrative was intended to deceive the family but more importantly the American public."

Crucial equipment belonging to his brother, such as his uniform, had been destroyed before a thorough investigation could be carried out, Mr Tillman added.

'Keeping silent'

Kevin Tillman was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident happened, but did not see it.

A US army ranger who was with Pat Tillman when he died told the panel that he was ordered not to tell Kevin Tillman his brother was killed by friendly fire.

Bryan O'Neal said he was given the order by the battalion commander, then-Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Bailey.

"He basically just said: 'Do not let Kevin know, he's probably in a bad place knowing that his brother's dead.'"

He added that it was made clear that he would "get in trouble" if he told.

The US army is in the process of reviewing several hundred deaths of its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The move follows complaints from families of those who died that they have not always been given accurate information.

Cpl Tillman's death was highly publicised in the US because he had given up a multi-million dollar professional football contract with the Arizona Cardinals to fight for his country.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Kevin Tillman gives evidence at the congressional panel



SEE ALSO
US army faulted in Tillman case
26 Mar 07 |  Americas
US army reviewing combat deaths
25 Aug 06 |  Americas
US army to probe NFL star's death
05 Mar 06 |  Americas
Army 'hid truth of Tillman death'
05 May 05 |  Americas

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