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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
British soldiers 'were murdered'
Captain Alex Eida
Captain Alex Eida served with the 7 Parachute Regiment
Three British soldiers killed in an ambush in Afghanistan were "murdered by terrorists", a coroner has said.

Capt Alex Eida, 2nd Lt Ralph Johnson and L/Cpl Ross Nicholls died when their armoured vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Helmand province last year.

An inquest in Oxford heard their vehicle had been "totally devastated" in the Taleban ambush.

Andrew Walker, deputy assistant coroner for Oxfordshire, recorded verdicts of unlawful killing.

The three men were part of a three-vehicle convoy acting as a diversion to relieve pressure on Danish troops caught in heavy fighting with the Taleban.

They were ambushed by insurgents who fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns as the convoy passed through a built-up area before the bomb exploded.

'Completely destroyed'

Captain Alex Eida, 29, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was with 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, South African-born Second Lieutenant Ralph Johnson, 24, from Windsor, Berkshire, served with the Household Cavalry Regiment, and married father-of-two Lance Corporal Ross Nicholls, 27, from Edinburgh, was with the Blues and Royals Regiment.

Lt Thomas Long, from the Household Cavalry Regiment, who was travelling in the vehicle behind, told the inquest it had been a "substantial ambush".

He said: "As we approached, there was a huge explosion and I immediately saw a fireball as it rose above the compound and the rear door of the Spartan vehicle flew through the air about 50m.

"At that point my vehicle moved around the corner to see what was happening. It was obvious straight away that Capt Eida's vehicle was the one struck.

"The vehicle was on fire and almost completely destroyed and unrecognisable at that stage."

That soldiers like these who lost their lives are prepared to bravely face this type of threat with unthinking courage on a daily basis is a credit to these soldiers and the armed forces
Andrew Walker
Deputy assistant coroner for Oxfordshire

The inquest heard the British soldiers and the insurgents had then engaged in a fierce firefight before back-up had arrived.

The battle resulted in two soldiers being awarded medals for gallantry, one after braving enemy fire to help a wounded trooper from the vehicle that was hit.

Mr Walker told the inquest: "I am satisfied that this attack was nothing short of murder by terrorists intent upon causing death or really serious injury without any lawful justification or excuse.

"That soldiers like these who lost their lives are prepared to bravely face this type of threat with unthinking courage on a daily basis is a credit to these soldiers and the armed forces."

2nd Lt Johnson and L/Cpl Nicholls were from the Household Cavalry Regiment. Capt Eida served in the 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery.




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