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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 23:20 GMT
Red Caps vanished in confusion
From top left: Sergeant Simon Alexander Hamilton-Jewell; Corporal Russell Aston; Corporal Paul Graham Long; Corporal Simon Miller; Lance-Corporal Benjamin Hyde; Lance-Corporal Thomas Keys.
The military policemen were caught up in a gun battle
When six military policemen found themselves caught up in a gun battle in Al Majarr Al Kabir last summer, no-one was even sure they were in the town.

The Royal Military Police (RMP) patrol - or Red Caps, booked out on 24 June simply logging their time of departure and expected return.

They were heading into a town that had been considered "relatively benign" where the majority of residents were thought to be pro-coalition forces.

But they were only three hours behind a Parachute Regiment patrol, who became involved in a gunfight with an Iraqi mob.

As the Paras withdrew, sustaining several injuries, they called for backup but the rescue Chinook helicopter at first went to the wrong place.

The operations room was not certain that the RMP patrol was in the town
Ministry of Defence spokesman

It was one of a series of errors that plagued the British forces that day.

As the gun battle broke out and the Paras passed within 200 metres of the police station, they had no idea the Red Caps were inside.

Their vehicle was hidden behind its walls and they were unable to let the battlegroup operations room know they had arrived, because they had not taken a satellite phone with them.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The operations room was not certain that the RMP patrol was in the town."

Defence officials said the Red Caps then became caught up in the gun battle, but they were only carrying a third of the ammunition they were supposed to.

A directive to carry 150 rounds, not 50, was apparently not passed on to the Red Caps on the ground.

Defence officials have said a quartermaster should have been responsible for ammunition and said RMP platoon members had been concerned they were not carrying enough.

But the inquiry found no evidence that a lack of equipment, or poor communication, were decisive in the killings.

The first the Paras knew of the Red Caps' presence was when three bodies were brought out in an Iraqi ambulance.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
What the inquiry found




SEE ALSO:
'Enough evidence' in ambush case
14 Jul 04 |  Derbyshire
Majar al-Kabir: From quiet to carnage
26 Jun 03 |  Middle East
What happened in Majar al-Kabir?
25 Jun 03 |  Middle East


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