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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 18:19 GMT
SAS patrol 'left to die'
Soldiers in Gulf
Panorama has seen call logs "indicating a cover-up"
Eight SAS soldiers in the Gulf War were abandoned by their commanders after their mission went wrong, a BBC investigation suggests.

Requests for rescue made by the Bravo Two Zero patrol - operating behind enemy lines - were ignored until it was too late, the BBC Panorama programme says.


I felt betrayed by the regimental hierarchy

Mal
Patrol member
Three of the patrol were killed, four were captured and tortured and one escaped during the ill-fated mission to destroy Iraqi Scud missiles in 1991.

The official inquiry into what went wrong has always maintained that no comprehensible messages for help were ever received.

Infamous mission

But Panorama has seen an SAS log recording calls for assistance from the patrol, which it says shows emergency requests were received, ignored and covered up.

Bravo Two Zero
Much has been written about the mission
The mission has inspired two best-selling accounts - one by patrol leader Andy McNab and another by soldier Chris Ryan, who escaped capture.

Panorama's programme - Bravo Two Zero: A Question of Betrayal - also includes the testimony of a soldier who has not spoken out before.

Calls logged

The soldier, known as Mal, speaks openly to the programme without any disguise or mask about his sense of betrayal.

"I felt betrayed by the regimental hierarchy. Not all of them... but really by the commanding officer and the operations officer."

Mal claims the Bravo Two Zero patrol was considered "expendable" by SAS commanders once it got into trouble.

Mal's patrol colleague Mike Coburn, who has only recently been able to publish his account of the mission after a court in New Zealand lifted an injunction, was tortured by Iraqi guards during his 48 days as a prisoner.

He said he was disgusted that the regiment's hierarchy "let a lot of the guys down".

The first entry in the logs quoted by the programme - for 24 January 1991 - refers to a request for "exfiltration asp", but suggests it was unclear whether contact had been made.

Entries for 25 and 26 January refer to two further requests, and a belated rescue foiled by bad weather.

Risk assessment

But the SAS Regimental Sergeant Major in the Gulf at the time, Peter Ratcliffe, defends the decision not to send the rescue helicopter, taken by the SAS's commanding officer.

"He is not a man to expend anybody's lives," he told the programme.

"He would have done everything in his power to make sure those guys got out alive.

"But at the same time, he would not risk other people's lives when he was unclear of the situation that was taking place in Iraq."

The Ministry of Defence said it was aware of the claims made in the programme but would not comment on the special forces or their operations.

Panorama's "Bravo Two Zero - A Question of Betrayal" will be shown on BBC1 on 10 February at 2215GMT.

See also:

06 Dec 00 | UK
MoD fails to stop SAS book
02 Nov 01 | UK
Profile: The SAS
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