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|US Bombs Its Own Soldiers|
|03/13/01 at 11:16:05|
|US Bombs Its Own Soldiers|
US investigates bombing blunder
United States and New Zealand officials are urgently seeking an
explanation for the latest accident involving the US military, this time
on a bombing range in Kuwait.
Six soldiers were killed and 10 injured when a US Navy F/A-18 plane,
practising close air support for ground troops, dropped a bomb "on or
near" an observation post, the US Central Command said.
Five of the dead were Americans and one was identified as 27-year-old
acting Major John McNutt from New Zealand.
"This was a live bomb basically dropped on observers. It should not happen
and we all need to know precisely what went wrong," New Zealand Defence
Minister Mark Burton said.
The accident took place at the Udairi bombing range in north-west Kuwait,
about 45km (30 miles) from the Iraqi border.
The aircraft had taken off from the USS Harry S Truman which is currently
sailing in the Gulf.
Those killed and injured were on the ground observing training at the
range when they were hit by the 225kg (500lb) bomb in the darkness,
As he began a visit to Florida, US President George Bush asked those
assembled for a moment of silence for the dead soldiers and their
"I am reminded today of how dangerous service can be," he said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the accident was a sad reminder
of the risks of military service, even in peacetime.
"The president's young administration has unfortunately seen several
incidents of accidents," he added.
US Central Command, the unified military command responsible for US
security interests in 25 nations, said the jet was participating in a
"routine close air support training exercise" involving forces from the US
military and other nations patrolling the Iraqi no-fly zone.
"Such exercises are held quarterly for the purpose of practicing air
operations against hostile ground targets in close proximity to friendly
forces," the US Central Command said.
"The exercises involve friendly ground and airborne forces pointing out
targets to friendly fighter aircraft orbiting overhead. The fighter
aircraft then deliver weapons on the targets," it added.
An accident investigation board has been appointed and will arrive in
Kuwait this week.
The US military has operated regularly from airfields and an army base in
Kuwait since the 1991 Gulf War, when US forces expelled the occupying
This is the fourth major accident involving the US military since
President Bush took office.
On 3 March, 18 members of the Virginia Air National Guard and three Army
crewmen died in the crash of a C-23 twin engine turboprop.
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