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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 11:14 GMT
'Friendly fire' footage revealed
L/CoH Matty Hull
L/CoH Matty Hull was in a convoy of light armoured vehicles near Basra
The cockpit video at the centre of a row over the "friendly-fire" death of a British soldier in Iraq has been obtained by the Sun newspaper.

An inquest into the death of Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull, 25, from Berks, was adjourned after the coroner said the tape was central to the case.

The video was classified "secret" by the US, but minister Harriet Harman wants all evidence made available.

The Sun says it shows a 2003 US aircraft attack on a British convoy.

The deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in London, David Johnson, said it was considering de-classifying the video if the military considered it would not put forces at risk in future.

The Sun has published a transcript of what it says was said by US military personnel on the video.

At the start of the attack, one pilot notices orange panels on the vehicles and asks whether there could be any friendly units in the area.

His command gives assurances there are no coalition forces in the area.

We're in jail, dude
American pilot on tape

Pilots open fire but soon the error is realised and they are informed that friendly units were in the area.

They are told: "Abort your mission. You got a, looks we might have a blue-on-blue situation [a friendly fire incident]."

An air controller on the ground says: "We are getting an initial brief that there was one killed and one wounded, over."

One pilot replies: "Copy. RTB [return to base]." A colleague says: "I'm going to be sick."

They then talk about the possibility of being jailed for carrying out the attack.

'Weeping'

The first pilot says: "Did you hear?" His colleague replies: "Yeah, this sucks."

"We're in jail, dude," says the first.

The other pilot then weeps, saying: "God dammit".

Whilst the Americans cannot be legally obliged to help, they should do so, bearing in mind they are our allies
Constitutional Affairs minister Harriet Harman

The BBC's defence correspondent Paul Wood said it was obvious from the recording that the pilots were appalled by their mistake.

"They are not just remorseful, they are weeping. They are beside themselves."

Defence analyst Paul Beaver said: "I can see no reason for classifying it, other than it is deeply embarrassing to the US military.

He said it showed a "catalogue of errors" including pilots ignoring orange panels on vehicles - the NATO symbol for friendly forces.

"You have to ask were they fit for flying at that time? What sort of training do they have?"

The Sun has released footage to television and radio stations, but is not giving other websites permission to use clips.

It is not known who leaked the video to the newspaper, but the US government says it will be prosecute whoever is responsible.

Constitutional Affairs minister Ms Harman said she would not be drawn on whether the source of the leak should be prosecuted.

However she did say she would be holding meetings with British officials throughout the day to discuss how to resolve the matter.

"We have always had a very clear view that what matters is the information should be available to the family and, whilst the Americans cannot be legally obliged to help, they should do so, bearing in mind they are our allies," she added.

Last week, when the existence of the tape came to light, L/CoH Hull's widow, Susan, described it as an "absolute disgrace" that she had been assured by the military no such tape existed.

L/CoH Hull, from the Household Cavalry Regiment, died from multiple injuries inside his blazing Scimitar tank, despite efforts by colleagues to save him.

He was travelling in a column of light armoured vehicles near the southern Iraqi city of Basra when it was reportedly attacked by a US A-10 "tankbuster" aircraft.

Furious attack

On Friday, Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker was forced to adjourn L/CoH Hull's hearing because the MoD had failed to provide the inquest with a recording.

He had earlier launched a furious attack on the MoD for refusing to release the tape.

There has never been any intention to deliberately deceive or mislead L/CoH Hull's family
MoD

The MoD said it was given a copy of the video by the US government for its own investigation into the incident.

"This recording is the property of the United States government and the MoD does not have the right to release it without their permission," it said in a statement.

L/CoH Hull's family had been told that some classified material has been withheld, "but we did not specify its exact nature", the statement added.

"There has never been any intention to deliberately deceive or mislead L/CoH Hull's family."

However, Mr Johnson, from London's US Embassy, said the US government had been in discussions with Harriet Harman and other officials over the tape.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the US government never released documents that were part of an investigation.

The Pentagon is understood to have a longstanding position of not letting US servicemen appear before foreign tribunals.


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